Lawyer's letter to Yawning Bread, lawyer's letter to TREmeritus, lawyer's letter to radio DJ Joe Augustin, lawyer's letter to Singapore Surf, and now, lawyer's letter to The Real Singapore (TRS). This seems to be the new normal in Singapore, post GE2011.
Instead of countering alleged misinformation and inaccurate blog posts, and comments on social media by putting out accurate information and robustly defending its record with more speech, this PAP Government has chosen to suppress such opinions and remarks by threatening those that made them with lawyer's letters.
Considering the fact that this Government can make use of the mainstream media to correct any of the alleged inaccuracies, which's readership and reach are much higher than any of the blogs or individual commenters; and also the fact that most (if not all) blogs which published such information or opinion, will gladly remove that content, and publish any information the Government sends to them to clarify the inaccuracy which appeared on their blog, the practice chosen by this Government is regrettable.
Why regrettable? Because it instills fear and becomes an obstacle for people to discuss or comment on socio-political issues openly; because people will be afraid that their comment may be deemed false, and so they'll be sanctioned by the PAP Government.
There could be a few reasons as to why people comment or opine inaccurately. One of the major reason could be because there is no legislation for freedom of information in Singapore, and in place of that, what we have is a poor substitute - the Government's Factually website.
Surely more conversation, and not suppression of allegedly false information must be the answer to counter supposedly inaccurate opinion. And also, it is in the interest of the Government to not curb allegedly false information by demanding the removal of such content through lawyer's letter.
For example, when blogger Alex Au took the lawyer's word that "the allegations against our client (Mr Shanmugam) that you (Alex) have referred to in the Blog Comments have been put up primarily by a person who calls himself 'scroobal' on the internet", were false and scurrilous and withdrew his Blog Comment, there was a peak in Google search volume, for the search term 'scroobal' (link: Google Trends).
"Our client has instructed us to try and trace “scroobal’ in order to sue him. But the internet being what it is. 'scroobal’ has been untraceable so far.
Likewise, others who have repeated the allegations made by “scroobal’ have so far been untraceable."
It would be interesting to note if Dr Ng's lawyer will be able to trace the administrators and editors of TRS, but it will reflect very badly on the Government if they are not able to follow through after warning the website that they intend to commence legal proceedings against them.
Yes, the comments and opinions in some blogs and social media may be irritating for the Government, but, very often, such sites and commentators put forth such views not because they want to malign the political leaders, but they are unsure of the full facts themselves.
Why try and kill mosquitoes with a sledgehammer?