~by: Ravi Philemon~
the following is the transcript of my welcome speech at TOC’s Awards Night:
Thank you Mr Chiam See Tong and Mrs Lina Chiam for gracing our event as Guests of Honour. Thank you to our friends, well-wishers, volunteers and readers of TOC. Without your goodwill and support TOC would not have reached this milestone.
What do I say on an occasion such as this? I think it will be apt to remember some important events from the past five years.
The former chief editor and one of the founders of TOC in remembering why TOC started says, “In those days the media and the government were always slamming netizens. Ya, even in those days they were discrediting it.” So the name The Online Citizen was coined to say that even if we are online, we are still citizens – so stop slamming us.
TOC was started after the 2006 General Election on 1 December 2006, because of the unfair coverage by the mainstream media of the opposition.
By 2007, we had grown to a certain level. When TOC’s then deputy editor Gerald Giam wrote about Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s son, Li Hongyi contravening Singapore Armed Force’s general orders, Reuters highlighted that several blogs have emerged as an alternative source of information for the city-state’s internet savvy population, over pro-government newspapers.
In 2008, activism became more firmly entrenched in the DNA of TOC. TOC being part of the ‘Bloggers 13′, submitted a proposal to Minister for Information, Communication and Arts, to deregulate the internet. 2008 was also the year TOC took to Speakers’ Corner to protest the public transport fare hike.
2009 was the coming of age of TOC. When we covered the AWARE saga, our servers crashed a few times. It was also the year we started speaking up for and campaigning against the mandatory aspect of the death penalty.
In 2010, TOC started speaking up for the homeless and the people with disabilities, and the issues we highlighted were considered important enough to be brought up and discussed in Parliament. Of course the Government would still not mention TOC by name, but chided ‘irresponsible websites’ for spreading falsehoods online.
In 2010, TOC also organised the ‘Face to Face’ dialogue with political party leaders. The People’s Action Party representative was conspicuously absent in this dialogue.
2011 was probably the most momentous year for TOC. It started with the Prime Minister gazetting TOC as a political association saying TOC has the potential to influence the opinions of their readership and shape political outcomes in Singapore; and ended with the Law and Foreign Affairs Minister commenting that what TOC had published on a certain issue was quite false.
From 2006 to 2011, if there is a familiar stance that the Government had adopted about TOC and the socio-political blogosphere in general, it is that it is irresponsible, that we are the lunatic fringe and that our articles are false.
But despite these characterisations, TOC has grown all thanks to our volunteers, well-wishers and readers.
In 2011, we covered the General Election organised the ‘Face to Face 2′ with the all the Presidential candidates, covered the Presidential Election, and took to the Speakers’ Corner to protest the MRT disruptions and to call for, among other things, for the CEO of SMRT to resign.
I really do not know if TOC will last another 5 years. It is extremely difficult to keep a volunteer run entity like TOC going, especially with the slamming we keep receiving and the high expectations of our readers.
If we are to keep going and growing, we would at least need to go semi-professional, and for that we will need funds.
But one thing we promise our well-wishers and readers – we will continue to be a community of Singaporeans, and to be a voice for the voiceless for as long as we can.
More updates from the night and video coming soon.