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Singapore’s Fourth Estate is Pink

By Azhar Jalil

The LGBT community in Singapore held it’s second public demonstration on May 15, 2010 at the city-state’s underused Speaker’s Corner.

While nowhere near as ostentatious as Sydney’s Mardi Gras, the giant pink dot formed by over 4,000 supporters of “inclusiveness, diversity and the freedom to love” is a significant development in the conservatism capital of the free world.

Using social media and alternative information channels, the organisers behind pinkdot.sg have carefully orchestrated the movement to avoid provoking a government response – a caution that’s essential where homosexuality is an outrage of decency punishable with jail time.

Anyone who has lived enough in the little red dot learns that outright contravention of the engineered social norms is tantamount to being pariah-ed.

Hence what makes pinkdot.sg interesting is the number of celebrities and spokespersons (gay and straight), as well as the polished videos and media productions published by the movement.

More and more, Singaporeans are turning to the online realm for what’s perceived as unbiased and authentic news and information. Not surprising, considering the BBC’s description of the local media scene as  “highly regulated”, driving fringe groups and anyone with an opinion different from the ruling Lee family away from state-owned media and on to the internet.

In the tangle that is the web, a few sites emerge as notable examples of online journalism:

Using the frequency of posts and the volume of comments, a quick browse through all three will show intense levels of interest and activity by Singaporeans, each with their two cents worth.

Already, netizens – a self-dubbed portmanteau of net-citizen – have used the web for a variety of purposes, most crucially in this context to participate in democracy as the contemporary fourth estate.

Not one to take criticism likely, the Singapore Government has moved to restore the public’s faith in its official mouthpieces. Particularly so when such evidence is used to support the argument that only the state media is believed to be able to report objectively during elections.

Perhaps such rapid development of online journalism can only take place where it’s existence is a necessity.

Unlike Australia where politicians from all sides of the fence feature frequently in the news, politics in Singapore is a (surprise, surprise) strictly regulated activity.

In such a crucible, online journalism is forced to rapidly evolve for the sake of survival and relevance.

Paradoxically, it is not to liberal democracies such as the US and Australia that people should look for the next big thing in online media and journalism, but to nations with faint masks over their versions of Airstrip One.

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