giving the opposition a voice: the case of Singapore’s political blogs

MAIN BLOG POST: WEEK 4

Russell (et al.) compares elite media and institutions with bloggers and ponders the following question: ‘Do bloggers, with their editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity more effectively inform the public?’ (Reader, Page 136) Do you agree? Use examples to illustrate your point of view.

I agree that because of the editorial independence, collaborative structure and merit-based popularity of political bloggers in Singapore, it has shed some light on democratic journalism in the otherwise mundane and even biased existing authoritarian political structure.

People’s Action Party, Singapore’s incumbent ruling party since the country’s independence has held a tight reign over every aspect in Singapore. It has strived to remain the ruling party and has succeeded with tactics like having strong control over the state media.

‘Motivated by the view that the local media is biased against opposition parties, the online medium has been harnessed by non-political party affiliated groups and individuals to provide information of the opposition not available in the local media’ (Gomez: 2006, 5).

The 2006 election was dubbed ‘Singapore’s Internet election’ with the surge in numbers of political blogs with the intention to adding an alternative voice to the media landscape. Blogs were seen as the most effective tool in communicating alternative political views and lost in trust in the local traditional media led to the discourse that blogs are the real voice of the people and is uncovering the truth for the people.

‘the manner by which some of the stories were crafted and headlined had certainly painted them in poor light and could have influenced voter behaviour’ (Mutalib: 2002, 28).

‘The 2006 general election showed that there was a sizeable discrepancy between that which was reported by the local media and the reality of opposition party activities, thereby pointing a gap in the local media reportage’ (Gomex: 2006, 30)

As a result the influx of citizen journalism and active participation in discussion of politics in Singapore shifted to the online realm resulting in blogs like, The Online CitizenTemasek ReviewMr BrownYawning Bread and many more.

In 2006, Lim Kim Mun (Mr. Brown) and Au Wai Peng (Yawning Bread) blogged about the discrepancy in coverage of the opposition rally in the local and only English mainstream print media, The Straits Times. Full blog posts can be found here and here.

Picture from Yawning Bread on Opposition Rally in Hougang

Picture by Mr Brown on The Straits Times the day after the rally

Drawing on Yawning Bread’s coverage of the Hougang rally in 2006 and its amazing turn out, Mr Brown collaborative blog post showed that there was no mention of this phenomenon but instead a not so glamourous and more defeated portrayal of the opposition during the rally appeared in The Straits Times.

The article (channel-newsasia-bars-dr-chee–again) also shed light on the local news channel’s biases towards certain opposition political group due the leader’s feud with the incumbent party.

There are many examples to prove that political bloggers in Singapore do present a alternative voice that more effectively informs the public during elections, especially more in the recent 2011 elections which brought in social media as a tool for publicity of political campaigns. This example also exemplifies Russell’s (et al.) statement that blogging ‘has taken over the watchdog function of the press’. Having editorial independence and collaborative initiatives, it allows a better representation of voices, wider coverage of the news and in a way more giving voters more diverse materials to evaluate who they should vote for.

(515 words)

Reference

1. Russell, A., Mizuko, I., Richmond, T. & Tuters, M. (2008), ‘Culture: Media Convergence and Networked Culture’, in Kazys Varnelis (ed.) Networked Publics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp.43-76.

2. Mutalib, Hussin (2002), “Singapore’s 2001 General Election and its Implication for the Future of Democracy and Politics in the Republic”, in 2002 Perspectives on Singapore, Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, chapter 2.

3. The Online Citizen (2011), ‘Channel News Asia Bars Dr Chee Again’, <http://theonlinecitizen.com/2011/03/channel-newsasia-bars-dr-chee-%E2%80%93-again/&gt;, Accessed on 2 June 2011.

4. Temasek Review (2011), ‘ Singapore is Taking the First Steps to True Democracy’, <http://www.temasekreview.com/2011/05/11/singapore-is-taking-the-first-steps-to-true-democracy/&gt;, Accessed on 2 June 2011.

5. Mr Brown (2006), ‘ Different Camera’, <http://www.mrbrown.com/blog/2006/05/different_camer.html&gt;, Accessed on 2 June 2011.

6. Yawning Bread (2206), ‘On Hougang Field’, <http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2006/yax-581.htm&gt;, Accessed on 2 June 2011.

7. Gomez, James (2006), ‘Citizen Journalism’: Bridging the Discrepancy in Singapore’s General Elections News’. Link to PDF here.

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