Singapore’s online media rules spur protests, Malaysians brace themselves: Page 3 of 3
By A. Asohan June 4, 2013
Singapore steps backwards … into Malaysia
Just as both governments are anxious to control – or ‘regulate’ – the flow of information online, the citizens of both countries have become increasingly aware and vocal about their rights to this information.
And increasingly, they’re not restricting themselves to being armchair activists. When Pakatan Rakyat held a rally on May 8 to protest the results of the general election, alleging voter fraud amongst other issues, it was attended by more than 100,000 people.
On June 8, thousands of Singaporeans are expected to publicly protest the MDA’s new licensing regime at Hong Lim Park as part of the Free My Internet movement.
Abdul Rahman, the former technology journalist, notes that Singaporeans are amongst the world’s top Facebook users and that the Internet has become so pervasive, that any attempt to control it “will likely face a wall of opposition.”
“It’s not the same as pushing or fighting for something we’ve not had before – Singaporeans have been using the Internet for almost 20 years under the Government’s ‘light touch’ policy,” he said. “Now suddenly, it seems something is being taken away from them, and they’re resisting.”
When asked if this level of public interest is usual for Singapore, Abdul Rahman said, “This is part of what our Prime Minister (Lee Hsien Loong) has called the ‘New Normal,’ following the PAP’s disastrous performance in the 2011 general election.”
Like the Barisan Nasional in Malaysia, the People’s Action Party (PAP) is the only government Singaporeans have known since the formation of their republic.
Abdul Rahman noted there have been other protests recently, including one after a Government population white paper was released that drew almost 6,000 people.
“We can expect to see more of such protests, as the mood has changed since the election. The people are becoming more emboldened now that they can organise a peaceful public protest, without the riot police in sight,” said Abdul Rahman.
While he declined to draw comparisons with the heightened interest Malaysians showed in politics after the 2008 general election, which saw Barisan lose its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time, he said a ‘political awakening’ has been growing and gaining momentum down south, and manifested itself clearly during the general election in 2011.
“Singaporeans have been voicing their anger and criticism at the Government quite openly since then,” he said.
“Social media, especially Facebook, has been providing a strategic platform for their voices. Singaporeans are finding that many of their fellow citizens are expressing the same concerns they have, and this in turn has encouraged them to voice their own opinions and criticisms, thus creating a snowball effect.
“The climate of fear that used to pervade public discourse in the 1960s and 1970s is gone,” he added. “For that reason, Singaporeans will oppose any attempt to restrict the public space that has been recently opened up for them. They want to see more spaces opened up, not closed.”
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