From the Straits Times (thanks to Mr Wang) and in the wake of a series of sedition charges, here’s a recent article (partial) showing how Singapore has yet to come to grasp with blogging as just another medium. Since blogging is a fairly new thing to the rest of Singapore, we are witnessing traditional systems adapt to it, other rather, adapting it to fit the system. Wondering if there will ever be a mutual change…
Straits Times, Sept 27, 2005
Schools act against students for ‘flaming’ teachers on blogs
By Sandra Davie and Liaw Wy-Cin
FREE speech may be the buzzword on the Internet – but libel is unacceptable everywhere.
The message has been sent out loud and clear, with five junior college students being punished for posting offensive remarks about two teachers and a vice-principal online. The students, all girls, were made to remove the remarks from their Internet diaries, or blogs, and suspended for three days last month. Their parents were also informed.
The case is not an isolated one. Of the 31 secondary schools and junior colleges contacted, 18 said they were seeing more such incidents as the number of bloggers surges. Seven secondary schools and two JCs have asked bloggers who criticise or insult their teachers online – ‘flaming’ in Internet jargon – to remove the offending remarks. One such remark referred to a secondary school teacher as a ‘prude’ for disciplining a student for wearing a too-short skirt. ‘Frustrated old spinster. Can’t stand to see attractive girls,’ the blog read.
Tanglin Secondary science and PE teacher Tham Kin Loong said: ‘I’ve had vulgarities hurled against me, my parents and my whole family in some students’ blogs.’
The 33-year-old added: ‘Most of them do not realise the legal implications of what they are writing in such a public domain.’
If teachers wish to prosecute, they may have legal grounds to do so.
Singapore Teachers’ Union general secretary Swithun Lowe said the union is ready to back any teacher who wants to take legal action. It has offered legal help to a few members, but they did ‘not want to affect the prospects of their young students’.
Lawyers say students can be sued for defamation, even if a teacher is not named. ‘As long as someone is able to identify the teacher, and it is an untrue statement that affects his reputation or livelihood, then the student is liable,’ said Ms Doris Chia of Harry Elias and Partners.
An injunction can be taken to get the student to remove the blog and issue an apology, she added.
But none of the schools contacted by The Straits Times has banned blogging. Rather, many English and General Paper teachers encourage it to improve students’ language and writing skills.
It seems obvious that the Internet “favor” the American way of life, which promotes freedom of speech and the open marketplace of ideas. As for Singapore, it looks like while the government seeks to promote different views for the survival of our national future, citizens will have to be more careful with what they say, especially online since it is a “policed” domain in as well. In other word, please don’t think too differently. Open criticisms have started to become a national past-time & crime.
If you’re wondering what’s with the image on the right, Reuters UK published their story as Singapore Schools Punish Cheeky Student Bloggers… oh how cute. Don’t be so cheeky next time har!
UPDATE: OK, I’ve had it with blogs being the all-time legal scapegoat in Singapore. Here are some constructive thoughts… instead of punishing students and telling them what’s wrong, tell them the RIGHT way to do it. We all have our memories of quirky teachers and principals, so it’s a pretty universal thing. Why not teach them to write their views in a more light hearted context as part of their English class… in fact teach them the safer way to blog (e.g. learn to write fairly). Come on Singapore, I’m sick of the dollars and cents mentality that’s like a disease back home… put some sense into it and see that we need to move on, not hold back. You got to give people a way out that’s good for you and good for them!