This letter was submitted via the Readers’ Contribution
"So much has been discussed around the recent move by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to introduce a new licensing framework into onlinenews sites. Media blackouts, talkshows, debates over many social media platforms…Singaporeans have come out strong and fast in response to MDA’s new initiative to safeguard what we read online. One interesting point that has been overarching this entire discussion is this: Should our freedom to information be limited, for our best interests?
Filtering out information that reaches the mass public would always carry negative undertones of agenda setting. If I were a parent who filtered out every single bit of information reaching my children that, for example, eating fish was good for your body, my children would grow up forever believing that eating fish was bad for you. Whatever information is blocked (or not blocked) sets a certain pattern of thinking in the audience, and this has not always been proven to be the best solution to correct certain perceptions of issues.
The rhetoric of the new licensing framework has always been to hold existing news sites accountable for the content that they produce. Whilst this is definitely a plus point in ensuring our media adheres to a high standard of journalism, it comes at a cost where the mass public is spoon-fed what information reaches us, resulting in a denigration of our ability to evaluate news. Going back to my earlier analogy, as a parent I would want my children to develop the ability to take in and evaluate both sets of information about eating fish, and develop an informed opinion as to whether eating fish was good for them or not, and not have to rely on me to tell them what was good or not. We’ve always learnt that the only asset that Singapore has is in its people, and thus we should be developing that asset to be better thinkers.
In my opinion, the way forward should be promotion, not limitation,of information. What is the ‘right’ information that we should read? Leave that up to those who read it, but aid us in believing that this is the right information to take in. This also encourages better engagement and discussion with the public, which is synonymous with the aims and objectives of a national conversation. The easy way to set a mindset would be to make sure I never read about a certain subject; the right way would be to expose me to information regarding that subject, and engaging and aiding me in creating one."