Slight dip in Internet freedom?

That’s according to the headline of an article in the Today newspaper. The article was about the report by US-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) Freedom House. According to the report, Singapore’s level of internet freedom declined. But, and this is where it gets confusing, Singapore scored 41 on a scale of 0-100, with 0 indicating the most free and 100 indicating the least. Now one would think that since the report said that Singapore saw a decline in Internet freedom, we would have scored higher than 41 last year. But no… we scored 40 last year.

So how is it that there was a slight dip in internet freedom when we scored higher in the scale this year than last? I read the article several times over and found no explanation for this apparent contradiction. Could it be that the Today paper is deliberately trying to make this report out to sound stupid to discredit it? Then again, given the journalistic standards in Singapore, I would more likely attribute this apparent contradiction to poor reporting by the paper. There must be something somewhere that Today isn’t explaining well.

Then again, the report (by the NGO, not Today) appear quite silly. The apparent reasons for the report concluding that internet freedom in Singapore has dipped are “key developments” like the shutdown of political website The Real Singapore (TRS) in May, the suing of blogger Roy Ngerng, and jail sentence of teen blogger Amos Yee in July. If indeed the report used those events to conclude that internet freedom in Singapore has dipped, then we should treat that report with a lot of suspicion.

TRS was insipid drivel at best, at worst it was a cesspool of unsubstantiated sensationalist rumours. Roy Ngerng’s blog is rubbish masquerading as intelligent thought. Amos Yee is an obnoxious, self-righteous egotistical joke. Any report that uses those three to conclude anything about our internet freedom probably hasn’t done much useful analysis.

But one does wonder how free we are to express our thoughts on the internet. A few friends of mine have warned that I shouldn’t be so vocal in my views against the government. They say that I will be marked because of that. They tell me that I can forget about getting any government grants or business from the government if I continue to write things that are so stridently anti-government. Surely that cannot be.

Firstly, my blog is a rinky-dinky blog. The number of posts that get more than a thousand views, I can count with one hand. And other than the blog about the durian generation, none of my posts have really gone viral. So why should the government care about what I write? While I know that the government monitors online chatter (e.g. blogs, comments by influential people on their Facebook page), I am sure that my blog isn’t influential enough to have caught their attention. Right?

Secondly, and more importantly, I am sure that the Singapore government isn’t that vindictive. I am sure they can tell that even when I write about things that seem to be against the government, I write with the best of intentions. I criticise because I care. I criticise because I hope that things will improve. Surely the government won’t mark me just for that. Right?

In any case, the report by that US based NGO said that “The government’s restrictions on online debate have not been severe enough to neutralise the Internet’s importance as a space for alternative and more authentic voices,” and that “the Internet in Singapore remained largely unhindered and is significantly more open than print or broadcasting for news and political discourse.”

Hopefully my blog serves as one of those “authentic voices” and my posts contribute somewhat to the discourse, political or otherwise.

[Featured image: Today photo file]

p.s.: psst… if I suddenly stop blogging, it’s probably because the secret police of Singapore has gotten me….

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5 thoughts on “Slight dip in Internet freedom?

  1. I don’t think Internet freedom is about the quality of the websites you shut down but that they’re shut down to begin with.

    And until you have a big enough following to have any influence, no authority is going to care. That’s well and good for now but it does mean that the moment you have worked hard enough to get a strong readership and can start affecting change, you’re shut down. Which defeats the point of starting a blog unless you’re happy with just putting opinion out with no real results coming from it.

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    • Yes, Jasmine, I simply love the drivel that I am spouting so much that I shall continue to spout it no matter what it achieves…

      No la. Not quite. I know that what I write has some (if small) impact on the people who read my blog. I shall go ask around civil service friends if my blog is on the list of blogs monitored… heheh…

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  2. Delusions of omnipotence ???

    Rules of engagements are clear, you decide whether to follow.
    Questions of competence, effectiveness or efficiency of policies, persons etc are treated as acceptable for greater good of nation.
    However allegations of corruption or dishonesty unless clear or evidenced, you take on at your own discretion or report to CPIB or CAD
    By the way, that applies on both sides of the political divide as can be seen by certain defamatory cases won by CST etc

    Regards

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  3. In addition, any rankings depend on context and worldview.

    Hence although Freedom House is incomprehensible to you.
    Likewise the press freedom ranking quoted ad hominen is to me, considering that we are below places in which journalists can be literally killed.

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  4. The fact that sites can get shut down for being insipid and irrelevant and people can be prosecuted for being obnoxious, is why we are where we are in the rankings. I can’t claim any familiarity with TRS or Roy Ngerng though i have read a bit of what they did. But the issue of Amos Yee, is an interesting one.

    I’d watched his video when it was first posted and i am not sorry to say this, but i was amused. You could tell, he was mimicking the likes of Bill Maher in his so called political commentary. He was not too successful, but Bill Maher has crossed the lines soooo many times. Anyway, back to Amos Yee, the action against him, i would say was drastic. In fact, if you read the replies to his video post, the replies showed an ugly side to singaporeans. Threats were made and those threats, actually deserve more introspection into the Singaporean psyche. TBH, the response to Amos was what had a blood chilling effect on me. The fact that a certain someone is beyond criticism.

    And i reckon, the Amos Yee incident had more to do with Singapore slipping the ranks than TRS/Roy Ngerng.

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