Thursday, March 29, 2007

QotW9: Speak Up if You're a Citizen?

In 1994, author Catherine Lim was admonished by then PM Goh Chok Tong and challenged to enter the political arena for her commentary in a Straits Times column on a disjunct between hard-nosed government policies and the aspirations of citizens. The Government had always maintained that those who want to discuss politics should join a political society. (Koh, 2000) But this changed in the Government’s recent nod to politics in the media and their “light touch approach” to Internet regulation.

Singapore’s most well known blogger shot to higher fame with his parody that had a certain pig organ as the star. Mr Brown’s Tur Kwa podcast which poked fun at the Government’s put down of Worker’s Party candidate James Gomez for his blunder of not submitting his election forms properly and blaming it on an Elections Department official amassed a big following. This earned him a mention in PM Lee Hsien Loong’s 2006 National Day Rally speech with the infamous misquote, “Mee Siam Mai Hum”. Yet another podcast was spawned with a funny spoof from pop group The Black Eyed Peas. Although the Government made no apparent response to that issue, Mr Brown’s TODAY article in another separate incident got him fired from the newspaper. “S’poreans are fed, up with progress!” spoke about his concern on the constant price increases that came with the country’s strive for greater progress via satire. (Brown, 2006) This time, he drew flak (and blood) from the Ministry of Information, Communications, and the Arts (MICA) for “distorting the truth.” (Giam, 2006) Many expressed disappointed with the still somewhat lack of transparency towards political opinion despite the country’s willingness to open up to new media.

Then in came STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print), an online portal by the Singapore Press Holdings. STOMP enables Singaporeans to interact and engage in current affairs of Singapore through the three platforms of online, mobile and print media. (STOMP, 2007) STOMP is meant to pave the way as citizen journalism takes on a whole new meaning. Citizen journalism, also known as "participatory journalism," is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information". (Citizen journalism, 2007) Personal journalism has come a long way- from whistleblowers to becoming an emergent force in society. (Gillmor, 2004) While STOMP positions itself as a medium of citizen journalism, I beg to differ. Yes, STOMP offers a variety of topics ranging from where to find the best makan to the really bizarre singlish spotted. It has the participatory elements of allowing average citizens the chance of engaging in the act of journalism and interacting with others about their ideas. But I don’t quite consider it to be pure citizen journalism because while citizen journalism has the total freedom of expression, the information that appears on STOMP is limited and regulated to a certain extent. Cherian George, a former Straits Times reporter gave his definition of citizen journalism, but added that "The potential of citizen journalism today is limited by access to information. For many aspects of life in Singapore, the authorities monopolize information and release it selectively to the accredited media. Citizen journalism has greater potential in countries with Freedom of Information Acts, empowering ordinary citizens to obtain data from the government." (Much ado about citizen journalism, 2006) I think STOMP has that potential, it has definitely encouraged more people to speak up and to contribute to the dissemination of information online. Singaporeans could perhaps be given more discussion channels on sensitive issues like politics instead of being restricted to mainstream topics already set by the editors.

While STOMP is the best form (that we can have) of citizen journalism publicly acknowledged here in Singapore, the country still has a long way to go in reaching the true spirit of citizen journalism.


Brown, M. (2006). S’poreans are fed, up with progress! Retrieved March 30, 2007, from

Citizen journalism. (2007). Retrieved March 30, 2007, from

Giam, G. (2006). Review - The politics of Singapore’s new media in 2006. Retrieved March 30, 2007, from

Gillmor, D. (2004). We the Media. Retrieved March 30, 2007, from

Koh, S. (2000). Speak up if you’re a citizen. Retrieved March 30, 2007, from

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Weel researched and well written. Nicely done Dionne. Full grades and a special mention award.

We do have a long way to go, but I am impressed by how far we've come also.