My poor publisher. I’ve had to make more changes to the text, which has already been typeset. This time, it’s because this week’s threatened libel suit against a prominent website meant I have to update the following paragraph on page 170. Changes in red, with some phrases deleted to keep the length unchanged:
Thus, the internet has become a lively counter-hegemonic space, where contentious journalism challenges the status quo in a way not seen for decades. A government not known for its tolerance of opposition showed remarkable self-restraint in its reaction to online dissent
— even in cases when the critics were fully within reach of the authorities. This was certainly not because it had become liberal in outlook. Defamation suits, prosecutions for contempt of court and other actions against offline expression continued to punctuate Singapore’s political calendar. In effect, the government operated a dual regulatory system for media, with stricter standards applied to print and broadcasting than to online media. The idea of differential censorship for mass media and niche media was not new: . In the pre-internet era, this principle was enshrined in the film classification system , which allowed films that would have to be censored for television broadcast to be screened uncut for adult audiences in cinemas. Similarly, books and plays were regulated less stringently than newspapers. In the early years of the web, the same logic might have applied to internet regulation: websites were niche media and did not require the same scrutiny as the national news media organisations. Quickly, though, some online media became mass media with tens of thousands of readers, as many as smaller newspapers such as the Business Times, Berita Harian or Tamil Murasu. In early 2012, government leaders threatened to sue Yawning Bread and TREmeritus (the new incarnation of Temasek Review) for libel, indicating its preparedness to act against prominent websites. However, wild anonymous attacks on the establishment continued unabated on various online forums and Facebook. The government appeared to reconcile itself to a new political terrain where it would no longer fully control what was said or shown publicly.