Straits Times denies bloggers right of reply

The following is a letter written by Choo Zheng Xi to the Straits Times (ST) in reply to the ST report, “’Bloggers 13′ want near free-for-all”. The ST responded by saying: “We receive up to 70 letters each day. Limited space means we can publish only about a dozen every weekday. This means having to make often-difficult editorial judgments on which letters to publish. We regret we are unable to publish your letter.”

Bloggers do not advocate “near free-for-all”.

Your article in Thursday’s ST, “‘Bloggers 13’ want near free-for-all” misrepresented our group’s response to the discussion paper of the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS).

Contrary to the article’s headline, we do not advocate a near “free for all”.  Indeed, the very first paragraph of our April 2008 report explicitly cautions against caricaturing any side as wanting a “free-for-all”, adding: “The real issue is what kind of regulation can allow us, as individuals and as a society, to harness the benefits of free speech while minimising the harm that such speech can cause.”

The report also claimed we were “ignoring” AIMS’ proposals except in relation to changes to the laws on political content online.

In fact, our 20-page proposal to MICA in April encompassed a broad spectrum of cyberspace-related issues including a suggestion for the formation of a community-moderation mechanism called IC3 to deal with controversial online speech including extreme racial and religious views. The proposed IC3 is to be made up of content providers, Internet technology users, and Internet content consumers. This was discussed at a public seminar we held on 21 June 2008, which was attended by the chairman of AIMS, Mr Cheong Yip Seng.

However, we make no apologies for concerning ourselves largely with political control of the Internet in our recent press statement. We find it curious that ST considers our silence on some parts of the AIMS report to be more worthy of reportage than what we actually do say. The effect, once again, is to caricature rather than inform.

It is unfortunate that the caricaturing we warned of in our proposal is practiced by a national newspaper. The report in Today was, in contrast, considerably more nuanced and reflective of our position. It is a pity that the Straits Times, despite being the larger and ostensibly more serious newspaper, seemed less patient with details on this occasion.

The full text of our response to AIMS can be found at and elsewhere on the web. The blogger deregulation group will continue to elaborate on our community moderation proposal for submission to MICA.


Choo Zheng Xi


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