Applause! PMO stands firm on TOC

While I have nothing against The Online Citizen — indeed, a couple of years ago I introduced it to an ex-colleague keen to share his political views — I’m delighted that the Prime Minister’s Office is standing firm that TOC is a political association.

There is nothing non-partisan in any of the content of the TOC website. It’s also an understatement to say it’s anti-PAP most of the time.

It’s such a pity that so many non-Singaporean media reports of TOC being gazetted last week took the slant that the PAP was taking steps “to curb popular news website” ahead of the election.

It is also such a pity that it took the Government so long to move. The delay, if anything, shows that under Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, it is willing to give its critics max leeway.

I had written to the writer of one of those non-Singaporean news reports to protest:

1) “I write to object to the headline used above your article. It’s so reflex action.

2)  It’s not so much “curb” as to make TOC as accountable as you and me, if we want to take a high profile political stand and aim to sway and mould opinions of the wider public here and abroad.”

Guess I wasn’t entirely surprised by his reply — which was essentially a “two-finger” gesture couched in words!

PMO stands firm

toc: come out of the shadows, lah!


21 thoughts on “Applause! PMO stands firm on TOC

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 19 Jan 2011 « The Singapore Daily

  2. Of course the point that you totally missed is that Online Citizen is a blog and site with blogger contributions that focus on social and political issues. The wider repercussions of the govt’s move is that any site or blog that is similar (including this one) now run the risk of being deemed a political association – after all any political postings has the potential to mould the opinions of it’s readers. You may not call it censorship but it certainly looks and sounds like it.

  3. sloo aka steve: u flatter me and others like me, who blog for one another in a small circle. And while like many S’poreans, I’ve got much beef abt the Govt/PAP, it’s not the whole or even a substantial raison d’etre of this blog! Donch think that’s true of TOC!

    If PMO wants to gazette me, I shall be most flattered but our Govt whatever u n i say abt it, isn’t irrational. Geddit? Have a good day n life!

  4. Hear!hear!

    That is why I have given up other than just for perspective basis on liberal websites, where only liberal ideas are deemed fit and proper whilst playing as the say, the person instead of the ideas proposed.


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  6. Our govt. is by no means irrational .. how else could they have so well protected their position in power! 😀

  7. Your post is very sensible and of course flies in the face of the handful of vocal xenophobic bloggers who adopt anti-government stances whatever the question is. The fact is TOC meets all the definitions of a political association so they should not act so surprised.

  8. Is it wrong to be anti-pap ?
    Alternate views are not wrong.
    discussing your opinions should be encouraged
    restricting opinions because you are oppose to it is wrong

  9. Uncle Bob, u are sport on. Nothing wrong with being anti-PAP or perhaps even anti-Singaporean. Or having different views. But if u do it as a mob, then you must want to effect fundamental changes, rather than incremental tweaks here and there. That being the case, y act in the shadows? Come out as a registered group. Is that too much fr law n order to ask?

  10. Hi Knuts: It’s also not irrational to ask those who may (or may not) want to help you improve yr policies to come out into the open. Those with nothing that can’t be said in the open wld similarly not be shy to come out into the open. Power to both sides I say! 😀

  11. The TOC is also known to censor comments on its articles as stated in this interesting blog post:

    And that is just on blog post because I have known of more people talking about this on Facebook. So it is hypocritical to accuse the gahmen of censorship, when it is doing the same. Furthermore, its claim about being non-partisan rings thus hollow when it is trying to present an impression to its readers that there is a general ‘consensus’ (and a lack of disagreements) to whatever they have written.

  12. TTIH2H: hey, y u got Chokie’s name? Not nice. Pse use yr own. TQ all e same for agreeing with my post!

  13. Hi Wang: I donch mind views opposing e garmen or anyone for tt matter. Wot I donch like is when it’s always a one-way street. Mayb by gazetting TOC, garmen is actually doing TOC a favour. To make its promoters learn to look from both sides. N in tt way help it earn a sensible following.

  14. Hi Xizor2000: Thanks for bringing this fact abt TOC to my attention. It’s got every rite to censor comments. I do too. Hence I never object to others, esp the Govt, censoring me. Because Govt is in charge of the bigger picture. I am not!

    Those who censor shldn’t object to be censored, unless the party being censored is the Govt. Want to have the bigger say? Become the Govt n while the mike is in your hand, u then set the rules of censorship.

    Fair’s fair, rite? 😉

  15. Hi Auntielucia,

    We can censor comments on our blogs because our blogs are established for us to present our _personal_ opinion. If anyone persists in disagreeing after we invite them to leave, then we have no further choice other than censoring them.

    However, the TOC claims itself to be a blog ‘which endeavours to reflect the views and opinions of ordinary Singaporeans’. Once that statement is made, they are being hypocritical when they censor comments that is simply critical or in disagreement. After all, even George Yeo does not delete comments critical of the gahmen on his Facebook. 🙂

  16. Actually, there are several things that you got wrong.

    1. The folks at TOC have repeatedly asked the PAP for their views, and their participation, even for the much-publicised Face-To-Face event, and have been rejected every single time. They still haven’t stopped asking. If the ruling party wishes to contribute, I’m sure they will be allowed to. But that has not been the case.

    2. TOC covers a whole lot of social issues that arise because of public policy. It looks anti-PAP because the policies are made by them. If it were any other party in power, they won’t do anything different.

    3. No one at TOC writes anonymously, as implied by your “come out of the shadows” statement. They’re not in the shadows. Anyone who has contributed will, by internal policy, be required to put their names on the byline publicly.

    Add the fact that classing a bunch of bloggers as a political association is laughable at best, and what we have is…laughter. It’s a farce. Nothing more, nothing less.

  17. Hi Xizor, Thanks for clarifying the censorship point for me. U’ve put into words the very thought I tried to express. Ie, the diff ./. TOC n us minion players in the blogosphere is tt we represent no one but ourselves, whereas TOC’s aim isn’t to represent the thoughts of Andrew, Mr Leong et al but the so-called “voiceless” in S’pore. So while I still don’t mind them censoring, it mustn’t censor or be suspected of censoring only those who disagree with them.

    Btw, i’m not a fan of GY so what he does or doesn’t do, doesn’t affect me! 😉

  18. Hi Callan Tham aka self-styled misogynist (?)! Thanks for dropping by.

    1) I disagree with u tt there are several things tt I got wrong.

    2) By contrast, I think there are several things that those who look on the gazetting of TOC as “curbing” etc got wrong. Y shld it be all right to bring bankers, brokers, doctors, professionals et al under a code of conduct and not a website which proclaims to speak up for Sgreans? If a code of conduct or an Act of Parliament to govern the activities of the aforesaid professionals is generally viewed as raising the stds of these professions, y shouldn’t similar demand of responsibility and accountability of an aggressive socio-political website not be viewed also as helping to raise the stds of TOC and its masters?

    3) Oh sure, no one writes for TOC anonymously but what’s the background/motivation/bias of the likes of “The writer is a corporate communication professional. He graduated 10 years ago, but has never stopped being a media student” etc? Has the TOC team met each n everyone of its contributors and know all of them have nothing but the Sg underdog in mind? Lastly wot about those who add salt and oil to the articles? Can the TOC team know tt all who add comments can stand in the sunlight n be counted as Sgreans thru n thru…?

    4. This said, Callan Tham, I rather like your site. Bests!

  19. Note: AL’s answers in bold.

    Please be specific on what you are disagreeing with.

    Your entire comment on my post.

    The one major question is, have you actually put your questions to anyone from TOC? Because it looks like pure speculation on your part.

    I’m not a news website nor do I pretend to be. So I don’t go round interviewing pple I make comments on. Is that what TOC always does ie it always interviews those it writes about, get comments and reactions be4 going “live” in cyberspace? If so, how admirable. If not, y are u demanding this of me?

    Let me clarify: are you saying any, ANY, website that speaks up for Singaporeans should be classified as a political association? So a website that represents, say, migrant worker issues, or one that represents human rights issues, or one for women’s rights, etc, should ALL be gazetted?

    I made it quite clear. Websites like mine shouldn’t be gazetted like TOC. But, speaking for myself, I wld be most flattered if PMO should deem me so n gazette FFM2T. It will give my blog a badge signifying influence and reach and by that token also holds me to higher standards than expected of a garden variety blogger like moi.

    Are you also saying that blogging is a profession, and that the folks at TOC are professional bloggers? (I’ll answer that for you: every single one bar Andrew, who is no longer Chief Editor, are volunteers, and Andrew worked out of his own savings, which by definition means he isn’t professional)

    I certainly didn’t say all bloggers are professional or blogging is a profession. I was just illutrasting with examples. As for volunteers, haven’t you heard of paid volunteers? And changing Andrew’s title doesn’t need to mean he is no longer the eminence gris of TOC.

    As for your last point, you are debating intent: which is all but impossible to prove. Can anyone prove that the ruling party, or any political party, have no ulterior motives? That’s a logical fallacy and a diversion.

    By the same token, can anyone prove that TOC and its like don’t have motives, noble, ulterior or worse? Haven’t u heard of the Chinese saying: Real gold won’t be afraid of the furnace? If TOC is motiveless in doing what it does, y waste energy fussing over being gazetted. Just enjoy the honour!

    I haven’t contributed an article for TOC for months now, and even I know and have met everyone who volunteers for TOC. Unless you have at least sought clarification from the editorial team, casting aspersions on their intent and belief is speculation at best.

    As for those “who add salt and oil to the articles”, correct me if I’m wrong, but I assume you meant the commentors. You run your own blog, and you know very well that you can’t vouch for each and every one of them to do the same. Why then the different standards?

    I know most of those who comment on my posts offline. Even when I don’t, I get to know those who drop by regularly eventually. For the odds and sods who rave, ramble and generally spam me, I just take away the mike. I don’t expect the same standards from a site with the sort of reach as TOC. I expect far higher. You are right, if your “why then the different standards” refers to this.

    Lastly, there is a very big difference between “misogynist” and “misanthrope”. As a feminist, I would take exception to being called the former. I’m willing to believe it is an honest mistake, but I also think you should correct that statement.

    Oh, dear! Callan! It’s a genuine mistake :-D! Also, note that I did put a (?) after misogynist in my original comment. So, you are a misanthrope? Isn’t that even worse than misogynist? Btw, are you in fact Claire Tham, the famous writer? if so, your mum and my sister were long time colleagues at SP.

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