Jan 29, 2007

Freeing Your Speech

For three reasons, the freedom of speech has lately been on my mind. Firstly, two Harvard students doing research on Singapore recently met up with me to discuss the topic. They even bought me lunch (chargeable to Harvard University).

Secondly, last week two NUS students also met up with me last week to discuss the same topic, for their final-year theses. Despite my protests, they also bought me lunch (not chargeable to NUS). Well, thank you again, PJ and D.

Thirdly, this coming Saturday, I'll also be speaking at an
NUS seminar on the freedom of speech - together with a few other scholarly / academic / political persons.

Right now, I have no idea what exactly I want to say, but I still have a couple of days to figure that out.

I had a good laugh yesterday. While chatting with my mum on the phone, I mentioned that I would be speaking at a seminar. She assumed that it was something related to my job - was I going to give a talk on investment banking laws or something like that?

I said, "No, this one is going to be about the freedom of speech."

She said, "Aiyoh! Die lah, you still doing that kind of thing, wait you get into trouble with the government, how? How?"

Singaporeans are afraid, and the fear runs deep. Yes,
Lee Kuan Yew might possibly argue otherwise. Well, he hasn't met my mother. Then again, if he did, she would probably be too afraid to tell him that she was afraid. The fear isn't always completely rational, but it isn't completely irrational either. Irrespective of rationality, it most definitely is real.

Apart from fear, there are other reasons why Singaporeans don't speak up, or decide to stop doing so. Unfortunately, Gayle Goh has decided to close her blog. She shares her various reasons
here. On the bright side, it does sound like she plans to return to the blogosphere sometime, under a pseudonym.

Meanwhile, for the foreseeable future, Mr Wang will still be Saying So. For those coming on Saturday, well, see you on Saturday.

16 comments:

one voice said...

All the best Mr Wang! This will silence the critics w.r.t. the BlogTV issue too. Will the seminar be recorded for the benefit of those who do not have the privilege to attend? Sounds like a very interesting topic that is relevant to all of us.

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, im just a regular student that was introduced to yojavascript:void(0)
Publish Your Commentur blog some weeks ago and needless to say, I feel your posts are highly insightful and equally intriguing.

Getting to the point, could you reveal more details about the NUS talk you are attending? Is it an invite-only talk?

Mr Wang Says So said...

Hi, NUS is organising it, so I think most of the audience will be NUS students (they have to register to attend). However I understand that NUS is also inviting all interested students from NTU, SIM, SMU, as well as all local polytechnics and junior colleges.

Charissa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charissa said...

Hi mr wang,

I hope you do not mind I post links here to answer anony 7.38's questions.

Hi anoy 7.38,

More details about the freedom of speech seminar can be found in the following link http://www.nusdsc.com/programsheet.php

and here link to show how to get there;
http://www.nusdsc.com/MD11.php

I think DSC would like people to register with them 1st. It is only open to students (poly, JC, University etc), but if you are interested, you can e-mail them and enquire.

Mmmm.... I am not from the club, so do e-mail nusdsc@hotmail.com if you have any more questions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Charissa!

Anonymous said...

Mr Wang, Just curious why you have decided to go public at this moment in time?

Jackie said...

Just as Gayle had her Waterloo at the TV encounter with George Yeo, I predict that yours will be at this NUS Seminar. Nevermind, you'll do better when you resurrect as an anonymous blogger!

Jamu said...

The following exchange about the Democratic Socialist club Seminar says it all:

Question:
"Hey is it possible to record the seminar and post it up on the web for the benefit of those who can't attend? Pretty please?"

Answer:
"Well u have to ask the DSC Club of NUS...
Sometimes, the things said in these forums are sensitive u know, especially when politics is involved =P "

Mr Wang Says So said...

People, this won't the first conference where Mr Wang has showed up and given a speech, you know. :)

http://commentarysingapore.blogspot.com/2006/04/students-conference.html

I would do more of these things, if I had the time, but I'm also busy with other stuff.

zHuAz said...

It's too huge a topic Mr Wang, very huge and vague.

Freedom of speech in what and whose sense?

Say an employee blogs about unhappiness or mistreatment at work, is it a violation?

If a junior or middle management civil servant posts certain objectionable policies being pursued by the Government and deliberately kept away from public eyes, is that an offence or for public good?

Or we go slightly further, religious groups using the internet and blogs to preach, or even what we see now the evangelist groups sponsoring TV serials to spread acceptence of "praying for good" and "marrying in church is the THE way", are these correct? They are also freedom of speech issues.

Too vague. Too many angles and people involved. Not to say the sensitivities.

Anonymous said...

The organisers are taking planning way too seriously. Check out the timings:
10.18am - Speech by Mr Tan Tarn How, Senior Research Fellow at Institute of Policy Studies
10.36am - Speech by Dr Cherian George, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow at Institute of
Policy Studies & Associate Professor, School of Communication & Information, NTU
Freedom of Speech in Blogging & Online Forums
10.54am - Speech by Dr Thio Li-ann, Professor, Faculty of Law, NUS, nominated Member of Parliament
11.12am - Speech by Mr Wang, author of www.mrwangsaysso.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Wang,

Something just struck me today.

One of the often cited counterpoints for the need for more freedom of speech in Singapore is "How often does one have something to say but cannot due to lack of freedom of speech?".

One of the often cited pros for foreigners choosing to reside in Singapore is safety/security, which is then often etomised by "Where on earth can a lady walk on the streets alone at midnight and still not fear for her safety?". But if one were to use the same thought process on the "freedom of speech" counterpoint on this, then the question on the premise is "how often does a lady want to walk on the street at midnight?".

Not sure if the above means much, but still just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Wang

I know this is off-topic but I am really curious to hear the opinion of your(a lawyer-blogger) view on capital punishment for drug traffickers.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous January 31, 2007 10:21 PM

I would rather see it as how important it is to be able to speak up without fear of being chastised rather than how often I need to speak up.

For I may not speak often, but if I find the need to speak, it is for something really important.

Anonymous said...

To anon at February 1, 2007 10:39 PM:
Good point raised. 2 thumbs up in agreement. Thanks!

That's why I think other countries can have more creativity. No fear to speak up, which generates lively sharing of ideas/debate, which is fertile grounds for new ideas to be generated.

anon at January 31, 2007 10:21 PM