Want a reply from Government? Use mainstream media

January 10th, 2009

The Government has rejected the idea of responding to citizens who try to engage it through blogs. Instead, mainstream media will continue to be the designated mode for such interaction. The Government has a long-standing policy of differentiating mainstream from alternative media: it replies to citizens’ letters published in the Straits Times Forum page and similar mainstream platforms, but does not post replies on independent blogs.

While acknowledging the shift towards online media, the Government is set on maintaining the distinction between mainstream and alternative even within cyberspace. It now says it will respond selectively to letters that appear in the online platforms of mainstream media, such as the Discussion Board of StraitsTimes.com. “Government agencies will … reply to online letters carried in the online letter forums of the local mainstream media,” information minister Lee Boon Yang said yesterday. “Not all letters posted to the online forums will get a response. The need for a reply will have to be assessed by the agency concerned.”

The Government statement said it was “not practical or feasible to respond to all blogs or forum postings”.

As for citizens who want to want to address the Government directly without going through mainstream media, the Government encourages them to use its official REACH portal. “We have decided to e-engage through REACH as this platform has an established online presence and has been pioneering the use of multiple new media technologies to reach out to Singaporeans for online feedback, consultation and engagement,” Dr Lee said. “Government agencies would also find it beneficial to ride on the experiences of REACH as they learn to e-engage. With experience and growing capabilities, we will explore other avenues for e-engagement.”

Some bloggers are disappointed at the Government’s refusal to dignify blog postings. Says Gerald Giam in TheOnlineCitizen.com:

“No one is expecting the Government to respond to all blogs. But this should not prevent them from responding to some blogs, particularly those of serious socio-political bloggers who make cogent and rational suggestions in their posts.… I sense that the Government’s fear is that responding to a blog that is critical of the Government will lend the blog credibility, when it is more interested in discrediting opposing voices. Another fear is that a response will generate even more opposing views, which the Government may not have a response to. This may make the Government look bad.”

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