The Government has no plans to clamp down on the Internet, said Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.
“The Internet is actually part of our engine of growth in Singapore,” he said.
“We want to ensure that the online space will grow and become a vibrant and robust space for Singaporeans to have a healthier national dialogue.”
Dr Yaacob was commenting about a recent case in which blogger Alex Au alleged online that plastic surgeon Woffles Wu had received special treatment in court.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers wrote to Mr Au, saying that his post had scandalised the courts. Last week, Mr Au apologised for contempt of court.
Speaking about the matter on the sidelines of a Moulmein- Kallang and Whampoa sports carnival, Dr Yaacob said that “the online space cannot be different from the real space”.
“We called for responsible behaviour. Whatever you do in the online space must reflect what you do in the real world.”
Making reference to a proposed Internet code of conduct, he added that there was a lot of discussion from the online community, and not the Government, on the need for responsible behaviour.
Since November last year, Dr Yaacob has been encouraging the online community to come up with a code of conduct on responsible online behaviour.
In April, bloggers, owners of socio-political websites, government officials, academics, journalists and social-media representatives met in a closed-door discussion over such a code.
Several bloggers and socio- political site owners had said “no” to having a code, adding that it was a way for the Government to control free speech online.
On perceptions that netizens were not receptive towards a code, Dr Yaacob said: “We remain open.”
He reiterated that a code has to be developed with a “bottom-up” approach and not a “top-down” one.
“It is open to all. The netizens must take charge of this,” he said.
Dr Yaacob added that the Government has an online presence as well, and that it wants “to have a conversation to find some common ground, common platform for all of us to agree”.
While Dr Yaacob said there was no Internet code of conduct as yet, he noted that many platforms already have their own code of conduct.
“The processes are already in place and we hope to evolve this over time.”
Separately, on developing programmes to increase media literacy to help netizens be more discerning, Dr Yaacob said that the National Library Board and Education Ministry are rolling such programmes out. The Media Development Authority and Infocomm Development Authority will also be involved.
The programme – for primary and secondary schools – is important for students, especially young ones who log onto the Internet, said Dr Yaacob.
He said this would allow students to check information or discussions they come across, to determine if they are true.
At the sports carnival yesterday, Dr Yaacob also launched a hotline dubbed Hope, or Hotline for Private Estates, with other Members of Parliament for the Moulmein-Kallang GRC.
The hotline, 6470-1204, acts as a channel to address the maintenance needs of private-estate residents in the GRC.
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched a similar People’s Association initiative, called OneConnect, for private housing estates in Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang West.
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