Bloggers do not advocate "near free-for-all"

This was a letter sent by Choo Zhengxi to the Straits Times in response to an article about the so-called “Bloggers 13”. We were not granted the right of reply.

Your article in “‘Bloggers 13’ want near free-for-all” (Straits Times, Sept 4) misrepresented our group’s response to the discussion paper of the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS).

Contrary to the article’s headline, we do not advocate a near “free for all”. Indeed, the very first paragraph of our April 2008 report explicitly cautions against caricaturing any side as wanting a “free-for-all”, adding: “The real issue is what kind of regulation can allow us, as individuals and as a society, to harness the benefits of free speech while minimising the harm that such speech can cause.

The report also claimed we were “ignoring” AIMS’ proposals except in relation to changes to the laws on political content online. In fact, our 20-page proposal to MICA in April encompassed a broad spectrum of cyberspace related issues including a suggestion for the formation of a community moderation mechanism called IC3 to deal with controversial online speech including extreme racial and religious views. The proposed IC3 is to be made up of content providers,
internet technology users, and internet content consumers. This was discussed at a public seminar we held on 21 June 2008, which was attended by the chairman of AIMS, Mr Cheong Yip Seng.

However, we make no apologies for concerning ourselves largely with political control of the Internet in our recent press statement. We find it curious that ST considers our silence on some parts of the AIMS report to be more worthy of reportage than what we actually do
say. The effect, once again, is to caricature rather than inform.

It is unfortunate that the caricaturing we warned of in our proposal is practiced by a national newspaper. The report in Today was, in contrast, considerably more nuanced and reflective of our position. It is a pity that the Straits Times, despite being the larger and ostensibly more serious newspaper, seemed less patient with details on this occasion.

The full text of our response to AIMS can be found at www.journalism.sg and elsewhere on the web. The blogger deregulation group will continue to elaborate on our community moderation proposal for submission to MICA.

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Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

One thought on “Bloggers do not advocate "near free-for-all"”

  1. As long as there is fear of repercussions, people will hold back their views.

    These fears are very real you know.

    Remember sometime back some dog lover was expressing his unhappiness that some religious group objected that taxis pick up dogs as passenger. Perhaps the poor boy’s resentment was expressed too harshly in words and offended this religious group. A vigilante from this religious group reported the poor boy to the police and he was promptly arrested and thrown in jail. See!! the result of speaking your mind.

    Why was his defence for the rights of dog owners a crime? Surely his youth and hence his lack of vocublary could mitigate his poor choice of words.

    ST reported the incident but sadly not the words of the poor boy and thus leaving the readers to wonder what the boy realy said.

    In some countries like UK or Australia, it is illegal for a taxi driver to refuse transporting a dog.

    My point really is there will never be freedom of expression when the government is so willing to wack people at the squeak of intolerant vigilantes out there.

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