Wake Up Your Idea
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
  Creative Journalism

I believe that the media in Singapore is getting more and more guilty-conscious. I think those who are in the media industry actually do want to do proper journalism and stay true to the profession by providing the full information to the public.

Contrary to what most people believe, I think that the media is trying its best to work within the present restrictions such as self-censorship, and yet, bring us the full details without stepping on anyone's shoes. This predicament has given rise to what I call 'creative journalism'.

Let me elaborate:
According to today's report on the Channel News Asia website,

"Singapore has scored high marks in a survey on tourists' perception of the local service quality. ... After breaking it down into its component parts, the survey showed that what tourists want most is courtesy, along with product knowledge. ... The visitors also rank the service levels in Singapore higher than where they came from except for Japanese tourists who think the service quality at home is still better."

However, according to a report in the Bangkok Post website,

"Visitors from India, China and Indonesia prefer shops in Singapore to those at home, while Japanese maintain they get better service in Japan, a survey said Wednesday. ... One of the city-state's biggest shortcomings is lack of empathy from retail staff, defined as the degree of caring and individual attention given to customers, the survey found. More than one-third of respondents said that staff are insensitive and pressure customers with hard-sell tactics."

Clearly, certain facts and findings of the survey were shielded from us 'for our own good'. The fact that the countries which rated Singapore shopping better were all lesser economies compared to us and that clear shortcomings were not indicated in the CNA report demonstrate the typical style of the Singapore media industry - selective journalism.

BUT, there is a slow shift towards true journalism and it was evident during the GE2006 when quite a number of gaffes by the PAP were highlighted readily by the media. My view is that creative journalism is more than just rebelling against the status quo and bringing the details to the public. It's about not stepping out of line and still doing the job.

This is one of the clearest examples that I have found thus far:
In an article titled
"Singapore polls: WP can still contest Aljunied even if Gomez dropped, says minister" there was a crucial piece of awareness information inserted which had absolutely no relevance to the article and had no relation to the preceding paragraph or the one following it.

"PAP Chairman Lim Boon Heng said: "It is better if the WP...clears any doubt of transparency in the management of the WP. After all, this is a question they say of our government, that the government should be transparent. So one would expect the same standards of transparency that they're asking of the PAP to be imposed on the WP themselves."

Meanwhile an online petition has been started in support of Gomez. So far more than 300 people have signed it.

Mr Yeo also talked about the issue raised by some Singaporeans to Channel News Asia. They had said that they were concerned their identity card numbers could be purchased by political parties at the Elections Department."

This is a true example of creative journalism. Although it does not offend anyone by going into details, it gives the reader (the public) a chance to know there was an online petition which had a significant response. It is up to the reader to do a simple search which would lead him or her to the online petition itself.

In time to come, our local journalists would perfect this art of creative journalism and, in true Singaporean fashion, will be able to market this 'skill' to the world - way to go!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
  Charges And More Charges
Section 182 Cap 224 (Penal Code)
Whoever gives to any public servant any information orally or in writing which he knows or believes to be false, intending thereby to cause, or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby cause, such public servant to use the lawful power of such public servant to the injury or annoyance of any person, or to do or omit anything which such public servant ought not to do or omit if the true state of facts respecting which such information is given were known by him, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 6 months, or with fine which may extend to $1,000, or with both.

Section 503 Cap 224 (Penal Code)
Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property, or to the person or reputation of any one in whom that person is interested, with intent to cause alarm to that person, or to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, or to omit to do any act which that person is legally entitled to do, as the means of avoiding the execution of such threat, commits criminal intimidation.
(Punishment under Section 506 - Whoever commits the offence of criminal intimidation shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both; and if the threat is to cause death or grievous hurt, or to cause the destruction of any property by fire, or to cause an offence punishable with death or with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years or more, or impute unchastity to a woman, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years, or with fine, or with both.)
- Singapore Statutes Online -

Criminal Intimidation is when a person makes a threat of some sort indicating harm or danger to the victim. In its loosest terms, this can mean anything and everything. Giving False Information means providing information to a public servant that would cause him to act in any other way.

I say let Gomez be charged and sentenced. Subsequently, he will get off with a fine as the circumstances are definitely not grave enough to warrant a jail term. Once the precedent is set, any civil servant can then choose to lodge a report against any customer or client who threatens to complain and any person who does not give the correct information.

For example, someone calls the enquiry section of a ministry and asks for some information obout their account. However, the person gives a wrong account number and the enquiry officer can't locate the information. Subsequently, the officer discovers that the caller had mixed up the numbers of the account (ie. instead of 123, he said 132). Based on the 'Gomez Precendent', the enquiry officer will have the grounds to lodge a report against the caller. Similar to the 'Gomez Incident', the caller would have 'seriously compromised the integrity of the ministry and, ultimately, the government' by suggesting that the officer could not find the information.

Another example: A MP (ie. member of public) rushes into the enquiry office of a ministry and demands that immediate action be taken on a certain issue. However, due to the procedures involved nothing more can be done at the moment. The irate MP then says, "Give me your name. I will make sure that you are taken to task!" In this instance, again, based on the 'Gomez Precedent', the civil servant can lodge a report against the MP for the criminal intimidation as the officer was put under tremendous worry and fear, not to mention his or her family.

So, you see, the 'Gomez Incident' will actually pave the way for our civil servants to be empowered against the unruly and the uncultured who think that civil servants are literally servants for the public (ie. "Because I pay income tax, you know!"). Gomez will become a martyr and will have to pay the price of not being able to stand in the next election but he would have given the civil service a much-needed 'weapon' to fend off the ugly Singaporean.

In the pursuit of independent thinking, I offer you an alternative perspective...


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