New Form Of Journalism.. ?
The just-concluded general elections has thrown up some interesting questions about the local media. Questions of bias-ness, unfairness, govt control. Also, questions of alternative sources of information, particularly the internet.
Criticisms of the media has been fast and furious - and numerous. So, I shall not dwell on that aspect. Instead, I would like to speak a little about the alternative forms sources of news and information.
The govt's attempt to gag the internet during the elections - as everyone knows - has failed, and failed miserably. Bloggers, especially, continued to post pictures, videos, audio files and news reports on their blogs during the GE. The govt (to its credit) did not do anything about it. I suspect it is more because they cannot do anything about it. It would have cast a huge clooud of darkness over the country if the govt had hauled up any of those bloggers - during the GE.
I am sure the govt was aware of the backlash at the polls if they had taken such a step.
Which birngs us to the interesting question: What will the govt do next? It is indeed caught between a rock and a hard place. They have set a precedence of sort - by omission. Not hauling up any blogger during the recent GE has set a precedence for future GEs. They - the govt- would have a weaker case, surely, if they charged any blogger in future elections for contravening the law.
If one takes a broader view of this whole issue, one realises the petty and insecure nature of the PAP govt. To try to micro-manage of all things, the internet, smacks of ignorance and desperation. In the next 5 years, I am quite confident that new technologies will emerge which will be even more powerful than blogs and podcastings. What then will the govt do? What then can the govt do?
Imagine this new technology:
Your cell phone is able to broadcast 'live' streaming video to your friends. You are at an election rally, your friend or family is at home. You whip out your cellphone, switches it to video-streaming mode and you start broadcasting the event to your friend's phone. Your friend, who is at home, plugs his phone in to the computer or tv, and voila, they have 'live' pictures of rallies - right in their own home - with sound and all.
What are the consequences of such a revolution. (Make no mistake, this will be revolutionary!)
Perhaps, I am thinking too far ahead. Even so, with the internet much can be done and much can be achieved vis a vis the issue of new sources for information.
To be objective, the blogs online are still a disparage group, disorganised as a unit. It will still be some time before the internet truly challenges the mainstream media as a popular choice for news. However, having said that, it would be wrong to dismiss its influence. YawningBread's picture of the Workers' Party rally in Hougang has become the iconic picture of GE 2006 - and has further shot Yawningbread higher into the blogosphere's Hall Of Fame.
And that's just one picture.
Imagine a good-quality, sleek video - of say, the WP's recitation of the National Pledge at Serangoon Stadium. It's reach could be phenomenal.
The only way the PAP can ever hope to counter all these is actually quite simple: Free the mainstream media. Allow them to be independent, free and fair. There have been stories of journalists breaking down during the GE after being booed by the crowd, stories of journalists who were thinking of quitting their job because of the derision of their professionalism.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong - whom I believe wants to open society up more - should be steadfast and proceed to do so. To try and gag, ban and restrict the flow of information will result in serious consequences for the country - the main one will be to further reinforce the fear factor in our society, and also further drive citizens into political apathy.
No one wins in such a scenario.
So, I urge the govt to look at the wider picture. Bloggers are not out to dismantle our society or to topple the govt. No blogger is calling for bloody revolution, or chaotic demonstrations in the streets. (At least, I've not come across any such blogs yet.)
Citizens will continue to push for more freedom - especially with a people who are highly educated and constantly exposed to the rest of the world.
I urge the govt to allow the free flow of expression.
If we are still being forcefully tied to the apron strings of a petty, insecure nanny, we will never become what the PAP govt hopes we will become - creative, non-conformists, and mavericks.
And these are their words.
So we shall see, the next 5 years.