I do agree on the negative aspects of limited freedom of speech in Singapore such as the tight restraint preventing us from expressing our thoughts freely and openly without any fear of consequence or punishment.
Control and Restraint
We may become fearful to even think and question because we know we cannot bear the consequence for wanting to seek autonomy or more scarily, we become used to a structured system that creates a culture of accepting and following everything blindly with little creativity or independent thinking.
We are controlled by the ideology without even being aware that we are. That’s the scariest part, not knowing your being suppressed and becoming immune to something you so ironically and rightly are entitled to have.
Rights comes with Responsibility
However, I also see the importance and benefits of the limited freedom of speech in our country. If we give people the voice to say whatever they want, some may not know how to use the “right” given to them properly or may even misuse it for their personal “cause”.
We are currently in the social media era where people, youths or even adults recklessly post their thoughts or words without thinking through of the impact or consequence their words would have on others. When that happens, it creates unnecessary and preventable chaos and conflict.
Consequences of Autonomy
Misunderstanding will arise because of such irresponsible acts. We have to always remember that we are a multi-racial and multi-religious country. One person itself is already very powerful. And you only need one person to convey a detrimental message for mayhem to occur, and divide our people.
Yes, we are entitled to some form of freedom of speech. Yes, it should be a given right but when it goes into the wrong hands or when we start to lose sight of whatever they are doing or saying… We end up just fighting for a personal “cause” passionately but become blindly driven to do it in a hurtful and mocking manner. This example can be an analogy of various world issues we are facing now.
When Freedom of Speech is easily granted, other issues like accuracy and objectivity of the content posted up comes into play. The people who read the information may also blindly believe whatever he reads or add fuel to the fire by sharing and commenting negatively towards the matter.
All these can lead to a dangerous domino effect e.g. people taking sides which causes tension and conflict. In an era where morality has already becomes so subjective and deviated, everything we do is for power, control and for others to be the like-minded us we want them to be.
We’ll one day lose the existing stability and amity that we have already taking for granted now without even realizing. It’s something to appreciate and ponder on – how new polices and how our actions can cause a grave consequence if not thought through carefully.
The internet can be seen by everyone. We should think twice before posting anything online and reflect on the impact our message and whether there is a need to do so if it may result in harm to others or cause a divide. Because ultimately, are we able to bear the consequence? There is no turning back.
We can only turn the right of freedom of speech from a privilege to an entitlement when we learn to be opened, respectful and responsible as a whole nation. I feel the time is not right yet. My personal take, I’ll place peace and harmony of a diverse environment like ours (in Singapore) over high freedom of self-expression. There is still freedom of speech in Singapore, just that it’s not as liberal as the western press.
“In a multi-religious, multicultural society, the test is based on mutual respect and tolerance. If … every citizen is mature enough not to speak, act or do anything that will offend others, and … are mature and tolerant enough … not to be easily offended and react with violence, there will be no need for any governmental action.
Unfortunately, we have not arrived at that utopian state. To prevent bloodshed and violence, a government has the responsibility to preserve peace and harmony. However, this does not mean clamping down on speech altogether. A government has to tread a fine line which is consistent with the mores of the population at any given time.”
– Quoted from Rachel Chang
Editor’s note: Cass wrote another post on her opinion about this issue after having to learn slightly more about the political and media landscape in Singapore. You can read it here.
To check out more of our posts on Singapore’s media landscape and censorship, click HERE
Written by: Cass
Article for reading: 1994 – 2015: A Chronology of Authoritarian Rule in Singapore