Sunday, 17 June 2007

Freedom of expression vs Social responsibility in Singapore

I feel that Szilagyi's view should be adopted, that more focus should be placed on social responsibility instead of freedom of expression in Singapore. Freedom of expression has to be accompanied by social responsibility.

In the context of Singapore's multi-racial society, where there is cultural and religions pluralism, we have to be very cautious with our words and actions so as not to offend people of other races and religion. The media is very powerful tool and can influence and shape the beliefs and perspective views of people, there was such an incident which happened a few decades ago in Singapore which can reflect my statement.
In 1964, a series of race riots took place in Singapore in July and September between the Chinese and the Malays. The first incident occurred on 21 July during a Malay procession that marked Prophet Muhammad's birthday. In total, the violence killed 36 people and injured another 556 and about 3,000 people were arrested and created disorder. At that time, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Through the Utusan Melayu newspaper, written in Jawi Script which is familiar to the Malays, the Federal Government in Malaysia stirred up anti-PAP and anti-Chinese feelings among the Malays in Singapore. They criticised the PAP Government in Singapore and claimed in the newspaper that Malays in Singapore were marginalised. In Singapore where people are the only resource, what would happen if people start fighting one another?
Therefore, it is crucial that media in Singapore play a vital role in fostering and marinating good relations between people of different races and religion, and has to be discerning enough as to judge whether an article, if published, would pose as a threat to Singapore’s peace and prosperity. The media has to work hand-in-hand with the government to protect the rights of minority in Singapore. Recently, there was a case whereby two Singaporeans were charged of posing racist comments on their blogs, the media can serve to explain the issue and highlight the possible consequences that would follow if the relevant authorities failed to take action.