Thursday, August 26, 2010

Singaporean Arrested for Anti-Government Remarks on Facebook

Singapore.  (26 August 2010.  1600 hrs).
Yahoo! News Singapore today published a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) on the arrest of a Singaporean for inciting violence via his Facebook postings.

The Singaporean, identified by local media as Abdul Malik Ghazali, was apparently arrested for his post on Facebook calling for Singaporeans to "burn" the sports minister and the PAP.  Abdul Malik Ghazali has defended his actions by claiming that he did not mean "burn" in the literal sense and had used it as a metaphor. 

Singapore's cyber-space has been set ablazed since the report was first published and a quick count of the over 400+ comments show the majority of netizens criticising the police actions and denouncing it as another ploy by the government to suppress opposition to their rule.

As I have written in my research paper, social networking websites like Friendster, FaceBook and Twitter have changed the information environment.  Citizen Journalists can now reach out and influence as many individuals as professionally run news organisations.  Herein lies the danger.  As unlike professional journalists who abide by a code of ethics, citizen journalists are unregulated and may be motivated by personal agendas.  In addition, the homogeneity of these social communities, and sense of bond among “friends” with common interests, makes these communities susceptible to being easily manipulated.

The Greek Riot in 2008 is a case in point where the death of a student, at the hands of the police, need not have degenerated into nation-wide violent protests. The incident could have remained contained pending investigations by the authorities. Unfortunately, irresponsible citizens began spreading unsubstantiated accusations of police brutality on social networking sites. This fanned anti-police sentiments which eventually spiralled out of control. Analysts are unanimous in their belief that social networking websites were the catalysts in the Greek riots of 2008.

Hence, while I believe that netizens have the right to express their views, the expression of these views must be done responsibly.  The inciting of violence is definitely not one freedom I support.
In my opinion, the Police is right to investigate this case and if a crime has been committed, the appropriate actions taken.

1 comment:

  1. I have transfered Kubiske's comment to my similar post on his blog.


    But the problem is that in many countries like Singapore the crime is speaking out against the government in an “unauthorized” manner.

    Absolutely threats of violence should be investigated. But the real intent of the police action in this case seemed more to stifle criticism than any serious belief violence was about to be done.

    And why does one need to be arrested to investigate? Aren’t the Singapore cops able to ask a few questions to determine if the writer really meant to “burn” the minister?

    On the large issue of rumor-mongers influencing the public. Unfortunately I have seen in too many places that rumors are more believable because of restrictive or unresponsive governments and/or because of a lack of trust in the local media.

    Many time this lack of trust comes because the media are unable to tell the truth about what is happening. (Think China.) Other times it is unwilling because of bad ethics within the media outlets. (Think of the National Enquirer or other supermarket tabloid.)

    Bottom line: Without trusted and free media, rumors and unsubstantiated rantings will carry more weight. (Hell, just look at the USA. The Tea Party folks build distrust against the major news organizations — New York Times, CNN, etc. They then replace the factual info one would get with their own story line. Hence, 1 in 5 Americans think Obama is a Muslim or that he was not born in the United States.

    Trust is everything. I used to tell my journalism students trust is like virginity. Once gone, it’s gone.


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