By Elizabeth Looi
The Nut Graph, 18 Nov 08
PETALING JAYA, 14 Nov 2008: While Malaysia has been debating for the past 30 years about whether or not to form a media or press council, Singaporean bloggers are planning to start their very own community moderation panel.
According to Assistant Professor Cherian George, one of the 13 bloggers who initiated the idea, the panel is to allow Singaporeans to have self-regulation when dealing with offensive or other controversial internet content.
The panel will be independent and will not include government officials, he told The Nut Graph in a telephone interview.
"The panel's role would be to assess content that some regard as unacceptable. It would have based its judgements on clear principles, and not necessarily on feedback from the majority because the majority could be wrong.
"If the panel finds that someone has gone too far with his comments, it can come out strongly to criticise and condemn the statement," said George, who heads the Journalism and Publishing Division at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University.
George believes that extremists who always make hateful statements on the internet would slowly learn that such comments are not acceptable in a moderate society. The panel might not stop extremists, but it would at least marginalise them, he said, adding that such bottom-up influence could be more effective in the long run, since censoring the internet would not stop people from making offensive remarks.
"There are so many laws in Singapore such as [the] Defamation Act and Sedition Act, and people have been thrown into jail before, but did [these laws] stop others from doing the same thing?" he pointed out.
George said the panel would be an alternative platform for the people to turn to before taking legal action. "We think many Singaporeans will be satisfied if a credible panel stands up against offensive speech, and so they would feel less of a need to lodge police reports.
"Currently, the people have no choice but to resort to legal action if they find something offensive on the internet."
He said people would have to judge the panel based on its decisions. "Therefore, the panel will have to continue showing the public that its decisions are reasonable and reflective of Singaporeans' views," he said, adding that the bloggers hope to set up the panel in 2009.
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