Hard questions on racism in S’pore’s cyberspace

IAN DE COTTA

THE PAST week has been open season for Singapore journalists and, in particular, sports writers. Commentaries on Quah Zheng Wen’s silence after two of his swims at the Rio Olympics hit a raw nerve among many Singaporeans who then vented their anger on social media and socio-political sites.

Full disclosure: I contributed to the firestorm with a commentary on my website.

I don’t want to discuss the merits of the commentaries. The Middle Ground’s editor, Bertha Henson, has already done this here. What I want to touch on is the racist diatribe that has been surfacing on some Facebook groups and online forums, without owners and moderators filtering them out.

A socio-political Web page, The Independent, not only allowed it to fester on its comment box, but even carried a story on August 12 with a provocative headline, ‘Veteran Indian journalist’s unfair criticism of Singapore swimmer draws fire’. More than 12 hours later it dropped ‘Indian’ from the headline and all readers’ comments, some of which were racist, after a few readers protested.

Singaporeans have a right to vent their anger and the Internet has given them the space to do so. It cannot be stopped and must not. But many do not bother about the responsibility that comes with this freedom.

The result is that characters of personalities, organisations and businesses have been maligned or assassinated.

But it has to stop when this breaches race and religion. If many of the heated responses to the commentaries are a measure, I fear we are at a stage where this protection, guaranteed in The Pledge and Constitution, is losing its power. Continue reading here

First published on The Middle Ground on August 15, 2016