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:: Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Is Censorship Justified???

          My class recently had a debate in censorship and that made me wonder whether is censorship is justified. I googled the word censorship and got these information. “Censorship is the removal and withholding of information from the public by a controlling group or body. Typically censorship is done by governments, religious groups, or the mass media, although other forms of censorship exist. The withholding of official secrets, commercial secrets, intellectual property, and privileged lawyer-client communication is not usually described as censorship when it remains within reasonable bounds. Because of this, the term "censorship" often carries with it a sense of untoward, inappropriate or repressive secrecy. Censorship is closely related to the concepts of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. When overused, it is often associated with human rights abuse, dictatorship, and repression.” 1
I cannot imagine a world without censorship. “In many countries there will be multiple liability for production of slanderous material, material which incites racial hatred. Where the author or publisher can not be traced or are insolvent the printers can be sued or prosecuted in some circumstances. The relatively small number of internet service providers (ISPs) should be made liable if they assist in the provision of dangerous and harmful information such as bomb making instructions, hard core pornography.” 2

          Young children will be watching pornography without control. 8% of criminals rate pornography as their highest sexual interest. Psychologist, Edward Donnerstein from the University of Wisconsin found that brief exposure to violent forms of pornography can lead to anti-social attitudes and behaviour. This shows how dangerous pornography can be. Without censorship, I cannot imagine what will happen to the world. “In 8 of January of 2007, Brazilian authorities tried to censor the site Youtube.com due to a video of scenes of sex between the model Daniela Cicarelli and her boyfriend Renato Malzoni, filmed by a paparazzo on a beach in Spain. Companies responsible for the access to the Internet in Brazil, such as Brasil Telecom and Telefonica, initially accepted the judicial order readily, and hindered access to the site with the offending videos. Due to the great displeasure regarding the decision in the community, authorities rescinded their order the following day, and Youtube.com was once again widely available to computer users in Brazil.”1

          “During the Spanish-American War of 1898, reporters, if anything, led cheers for the military. Throughout World War I, journalists considered themselves part of the war effort, not independent observers. This pattern of press and military cooperation continued through World War II. But starting with the Korean War and then Vietnam, the press took an increasingly independent and critical view of the military. In Vietnam, more than 2,000 accredited reporters roamed freely throughout battle zones interviewing ordinary soldiers rather than relying on the often rosy picture of the war presented by the Pentagon. There were few incidents of news stories endangering U.S. troops or military operations. But negative press accounts fueled anti-war feelings back home. When the war in Southeast Asia finally ended, many in the military blamed the press for "losing Vietnam." Some Pentagon officials resolved to restrict press coverage of future American wars. In 1983, the Pentagon barred all journalists from the initial invasion of Grenada. Then in 1989, the Pentagon selected a dozen reporters to cover the invasion of Panama and restricted them to an airport in Panama until nearly all fighting ended.”3 Negative reports will make the situation worse like in the case of the Vietnam War.

          “The issues at stake in this debate, protection of children, terrorist activity, crime, racial hatred are all international problems. If a global solution is required then it can be achieved by international co-operation and treaties. It is acknowledged that it is justifiable to censor where harm is caused to others by the speech, words or art of an author, all the examples cited above are clearly causing harm to various groups in society. By a combination of the initiatives listed above it is possible to limit that harm.” 2 Activists might fight for freedom of speech, but freedom without control will make the world a worse place to be in.

:: Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The problem with the modern media is they do not have a sense of social justice. Do you agree?

Firstly, before I state my stand, I would like to define the question. The modern media in the question would refer largely to online stuff such as blogs, online news, forums etc, but does not exclude the “old media” like newspapers, magazines, radio, televisions etc while the social justice would refer to the idea of a society which gives individuals and groups fair treatment and a just share of the benefits of society, as defined by Wikipedia.

My stand is that I agree with the statement that the modern media do not have a sense of social justice. Their main purpose is to provide information and facts but this is not the case every time. The media such as televisions, newspapers now not only report news, but because they are profit driven, they make sure that the articles they wrote attracts as many readers as possible and hence do not consider the feelings of those affected and involved in the article.

The first example I would like to illustrate on is the recent Virginia Tech Massacre that happened recently this year. As mentioned in previous blog entries, the mass media provided huge coverage of the event that shocked the world about a student who killed 33 people including himself at the university. Yes, the media is right to let the world know about the event and let the world mourn over the deaths of the students and staff involved. However, some of the news agencies like NBC chose to publish the videos and photos that Cho, the killer, made of him, before the killings and mailed to NBC. The move to let the media publish the videos and photos was actually a well planned move by Cho to make himself heard and “famous” even after his death.
Although soon after, other news agency decided to stop publishing the photos and videos, the content have been released and the effects have been felt as shown by the copycat killings that followed soon after. The media, even though they have claimed to have considered very carefully on the decision to air the videos and photos, their ultimate decision is still to air them, as they, being profit driven, have decided that the photos would actually let them be able to increase the news readerships through the event. What follows was a public outcry from both the international community and the family itself. Has the victims not suffered enough, both emotionally and physically? Why the need to still “publicize” the killer’s video and photos showing his “glory” of why he chose to kill and how he prepared to kill? If the news agencies have a sense of social justice, they have considered the feelings of the victims and considered the impact and also educate the public on the killings. This shows that the media does not have a sense of social justice.

Another familiar article that I would like to cite as an example is the NKF scandal that happened last year. Even before the investigations have taken place, or the verdict for those involved in the scandal have been read, the newspapers have already portrayed a bad image for the accused already. One of those involved and also the one the media focuses on is Mr.Durai. He has been running NKF smoothly with lots of fund raising activities and the patients generally happy with the subsidies they received from NKF. The media have largely portrayed NKF as a large organization that is helping with thousands of Singaporeans on paying for their kidney dialysis and the organization who they called annually to support the fund raising concert held on TV with stunts and so on to raise funds.
But once the reporter found out about the “gold tap” that Mr.Durai has in his office, the whole episode regarding the newspaper investigating and unfolding the story of the scandal began. The good things once said about NKF now turns into bad things about the organizations, Mr.Durai and those working with him “eats up the donations” etc. The newspaper also began to dig up a lot of bad things about the management, leaving them in a bad light. It moreover did not also portray their contributions throughout the years, and only caused the public’s opinions of the old management of NKF to be more and more negative, with letters sent to the forum. This again shows the lack of social justice by the newspaper. They only wanted to let the public know about eh scandal, and in this way, would let the readers buy more of their newspapers in order to find out more. They could have softened the anger by also showing the things that Mr.Durai has done for the organizations and his contributions, other than the fact of his scandal. In fact, there has been letters by former employees who have worked with Mr.Durai mentioning that he is actually a good person to work with, and he is one who cares about the staff and the patients.

Hence, I conclude by agreeing with the statement, as the media, being profit driven, have no sense of social justice.
:: Tuesday, May 8, 2007
2. The media is corrupting our society. Do you agree?


Before I explain my stand, I shall define the question. The media is represented broadly by newspapers, magazines, televisions, the internet and limiting to other publications. Corrupting would mean to ‘pollute’ our minds with the wrong ideas and thoughts and the society would mean the communities of people with people from the young to the old.

The media has been with us since the past few centuries, but just that as the years goes by, there is technological advances leading to information being able to spread around easily through the mass media from televisions and newspapers only in the past to being able to get the information online now.

The media is now by large influencing a significant part of our lives every day, through the newspapers we read, the televisions programs we watch, the online materials we access etc. However, are the information and entertainment we are getting containing the correct values?

Look at the advertisements we get on televisions and newspapers. Most of them, not only those for slimming products or programs, often feature slim models. It is quite uncommon to find one with an oversized model and hence, they are actually sending a signal to people especially female teenagers that to look beautiful and attractive, we have to be slim. This might encourage them to actually use unhealthy methods like excessive dieting to loss weight and get the figure portray by the models. Some of them would actually respond to the slimming products which in fact might be harmful to their health.
This is one of the ways that the media is corrupting our society by sending out the signal that “thin is good”.

“Many advertisements associate thinness with money, success, beauty and happiness, which results in the formation of a widespread ideology in society that equates thinness with these material possessions.”

TV programs like drama serials also sometimes show the actors or actresses smoking, drinking beer, wine etc to when they are depressed, upset and wants to “forget all about their problems”. Some programs also show violence like punching, killings etc while others like dramas shows people committing crimes and getting away with it, only to get caught in the end.. These programs, if not restricted in that the children and teenagers do not get to see it, would actually send the wrong signals to the children and teenagers. They may grow up thinking that drinking beer is okay, smoking is cool, fighting is fine to solve problems, and that committing crimes is okay as long as you don’t get caught. Even while education might be there to tell them what is right or wrong, the amount of time they spent watching the programs actually cause them to have such ideas. Movies and games available to the teenager (through buying or downloading from the internet) sometimes also depict violence and can actually lead to them being more aggressive, if not violent in future. While they are educational programs available, the lack of control would actually enable children and teenagers to access the content and accept some sort of violence in society.

This is how the media, once again is corrupting our minds. Even though some of us might say that the media does educate us about world happenings through the news and documentaries, the entertainment part and the advertisements of the mass media is what really corrupts us. Hence, the mass media could do more by actually replacing them or injecting more good values into the shows and advertisements.
:: Wednesday, May 2, 2007
How has technology relate itself to the Virginia Tech Killings?

Technology has largely influenced the Virginia Tech mass killings which happened last month; however we see it, large or small, good or bad.

Just before Cho began the killings on April 16 2007, he had already took photos and videos of himself he had wanted to send to the TV station. They contained the words he had wanted to tell everyone – how he was going to carry out the shootings and that he could have fled and not done it (the killings). He could have turned to counseling, or even his friends for help on sorting out his personal life problems. Yet, he chose to turn to technology and let them to the job. He mailed the videos and photos to NBC in the thinking that they would publish them to the world after the killings.

He had actually even been declared to be mentally ill by a Virginia special justice. Yet, he was able to purchase the guns he had used for the killings, legally. This is because his status as being “a danger to himself” have not been entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, hence not being able to prevent the shootings. This is how technology has enabled the gun dealers to check the person’s background before going ahead with the purchase, but yet, it had not been used promptly.

After the first two victims’ lives were claimed at West Ambler Johnston Hall, there were already rumors spreading through the campus email about the shootings was over a lover’s fight, leading the police to think that no one at the university is in danger. This is an example of how untrue news and even rumors could have spread so fast via technology (the internet) and misleads the police, when the police could have alerted the campus and help to ensure the safety of the students.

The university could also have send out the emails about the earlier killings to the students and staff of Virginia Tech about the first killings and to warn them to be careful and things like that earlier. However, the first emails only appeared at about 9.30am, by then which, classes have started and many people did not yet receive the alerts. So Cho had an easy time when everyone was at their classes and he was able to take on his victims easily. This shows on how the university could have turn to technology to warn the Virginia Tech community about the attacks earlier. But yet, they turned to it only when they realize the seriousness of the situation and by then, it was too late.

When the shooting was going on, mobile phones cameras were being used the take photos and videos, despite the fears of the students themselves being the target. This is an example of how technology has enabled citizen journalism to take place whereby the students themselves would be able to take on the role of the reporters who are not (yet) on the scene. One of the clips containing the chilling sounds of gunshots and screams were indeed, published in the mainstream media. This allowed the people not involved to actually realize how serious and tense the situation was at that time and gave people an insight of what’s happening.

After the NBC received the news clips on Wednesday, It thought twice and hesitated before deciding to publish them, to the dismay and anger of families and much of the public. As mentioned earlier, Cho sent the videos and photos to NBC with the thought that they would publish them. He was right. He was made an instant celebrity in the way he wanted. His messages were clear that he blamed everyone but himself for the killings. His motive was archived and he had done it the easy yet effective way out. Had the NBC and other medias cared about the public’s feelings more, they would not have published the clips.

Experts, however, were also worried that this might trigger off copycat killings by people who want instant fame. Sure enough, other threats causing the lock down of schools have been reported. At the Johnson Space Centre, a gunman killed a hostage and subsequently himself, similar to the killings by Cho although on a smaller scale. . This shows how technology can really influenced the way we think and see things, and how we react to some things that were made possible through technology, like the making and publishing of the videos and photos.

After the killings were first reported, there were messages threatening the south Koreans and Asians on blogs and discussion groups. One Taiwanese who collects guns even got mistaken for the gunman and hence his blog was clogged with spam. This shows how people on the internet, even without verifying the information start having their own thoughts. This is so when one user posts something untrue or without evidence (like the Taiwanese is the gunman) and quickly his post caught on with others, who seemingly agrees without verification (spamming the Taiwanese's mailbox).

Hence, in my conclusion, I believe it would be difficult for people to imagine the killings taking place without technology. Technology has caused the event to happened as it had, and in a very large way.

:: Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Nowadays, the mass media do not report the news; they make the news.Discuss this with references to recent events.

Before I begin to discuss the question, let me define the question. The statement actually meant that the mass media like the TV, newspapers, online news etc do not just merely report the news with the truths wholesomely; they had to choose what news they want to report and also remake and restructure the news in such a way that it will sell. Recent events would mean events that happened recently within the same and their news still being in the minds of those who read them.


The first article I would like to mention is the NKF scandal uncovered by news company Singapore Press Holdings. This actually generated a lot of interests when it was revealed on how Mr. Durai had been running the charity to his own benefit and has gold taps in his office, has been flying first class on flights etc , indicating a misuse of the funds that came from the pockets of ordinary Singaporeans. News coverage of the court proceedings followed even after months later and even covered by newspapers of other companies in Singapore. Even after the ex leaders of the foundation has been sued and hauled to court and a new board of directors has been set up, the image of NKF has been ruined. Even though other charities have been asked to be more transparent on how they deal with the funds, Singaporeans are now actually more careful and reserved about donating to the charities anymore. This is due to them having read a lot of the scandal of incident through the news and hence their mindset of charities as a whole (not just NKF) has changed.


The second event that I would like to highlight to address this question is the one on the Iran’s capturing of the British soldiers and accusing them of entering Iranian’s waters. When the soldiers were finally released and allowed to return about 2 weeks later, the captives were allowed to sell their stories to the press by the Ministry of Defence. The news reporters thus bid high price for the stories, to the anger and anguish of even Liam Fox, the shadow Defence secretary. They made dealings with the soldiers and even their families in order to get the stories from them and offering those significant amounts of money. They could have just get the facts from press reports from the relevant authorities and merely report the news, yet they choose to try to get as much content to make it as ‘juicy’ and attractive as possible. This shows that the press is capable of fighting and competing with each other to get the best stories, to make the best stories and to attract the most readers, in order to maximize their profits, and not work together in order to get the news as truthful and correct as possible.



Another recent event (and the most recent one also) which I wish to discuss is the Virginia killing which took place last Monday. What follows was coverage of the event for some days after the event on the killer, a South Korean and the victims of the mass murder. While I do applaud the media like newspapers, televisions and online news channels etc for reporting the events with figures like the numbers and stories of why it happened etc and the victims, I do condemn the decision to air the videos and pictures sent by killer Cho Seung Hui. The mass media should, rather, educate the public and not publicize the videos and pictures. It was a move that was actually planned by Cho himself to make he himself famous after his death and to also spread what he had wanted to tell the world, through the press. Although NBC, the station which receive the ‘package’ of videos and photos only on Wednesday, said that it would practice restraint on how often its videos are broadcast and Fox news deciding to stop altogether, they (the videos and photos) have been released and hence, effects have been felt. There have been copycat cases since then. This shows that the press actually makes the news without prior consideration of the feelings of the family and the consequences. They wanted to make their news sell and hence the pictures and videos made by the gunman himself was an attractive option.

In conclusion, although the mass media, especially those in Singapore, are to an extent reliable that they report news with facts in them, some of the content, are actually spiced up in order to make their news more attractive and able to sell. News would not contain merely facts and more facts which would actually make it no different from the rest who also report facts only. Hence, the mass media had to “make the news” and not merely “report it” so that they as a company can earn maximal profits.

:: Wednesday, April 11, 2007
1. “YouTube has no ethics, it's been created for the sole purpose of entertainment and money.” Do you agree?

YouTube was actually founded in February 2005 by three former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim with the idea of creating a video sharing websites after they themselves had difficulties finding videos that they themselves want to watch on the internet. Their main objective was to create a site where users could upload, share and watch videos for free. So that idea bloomed with funding from external investors and the site launched in November 2005.

The founders themselves should have thought of the problem of piracy but yet, they went ahead. Soon, the site became popular. Over 65000 videos including TV clips, anime episodes, DIY clips etc were uploaded every day and more than 100 million different of them watched everyday. Without the need to download any software or even to register, users can browse through most of the videos on the site. It was even named TIME’s magazine’s Invention of the year for 2006 and voted as one of the most user friendly websites by the users.

Thus, I feel that YouTube is created simply to provide us with another mode of entertainment and medium for broadcasting yourself. It is in fact a new way for us to showcase ourselves, a new way for us to express ourselves other than in words and pictures in blogs etc. It has enabled ordinary people who shows their talents on YouTube t be discovered and groomed by companies and made famous. There are also some leaders who have been made embarrassed in the videos either directly or indirectly through criticisms alike. First hand videos unlike those made by journalists are also uploaded and shared daily. The videos could also be shared through mediums like blogs, emails etc. This has certainly made added a whole new type of entertainment for the Internet. Internet service providers are also aware of the surge in bandwidth needed due to increase in videos downloads and thus have launched faster speeds at yet even lower prices.

However, lately, there has been uproar about the website by Thailand over its refusal to remove videos uploaded that insult the Thai King. Even before this, there has been some countries like Iran, schools in the US and Australia banning the use of the websites sue to content they deemed “not appropriate”. There are also companies like ViaCom wanting to sue YouTube over copyrighted videos.

It is the users themselves, who actually uploaded the content regardless of it might be copyrighted, or offensive etc. YouTube does have employees to police the website, but it is really impossible to look through the thousands of videos uploaded everyday. YouTube do respond to users who sometimes report the offensive material by deleting them or restricting them. YouTube do also remove content that is copyrighted when the media companies report them, only to have the same videos uploaded often again later. YouTube also collaborates with media companies to enable them to provide some clips for the site.

Hence, in my conclusion, I feel that YouTube do actually have some ethics and it is the users themselves who have to be educated the same way as media companies does to discourage people from buying pirated CDs or downloading songs from illegal websites sources to avoid paying for the content.
:: Wednesday, April 4, 2007
‘The teenage years are the best years of one’s life.’ Would you agree with this view? (CAMBRIDGE NOV 1994)

To me, teenage years are the years from the start of secondary school onwards (age 13 years) until after finishing one’s tertiary education (age about 18~19).

My secondary school life is perhaps the best years so far of my 16 plus years of life. This is so due to me being surrounded by good friends as classmates, CCA-mates school mates etc. We play hard together in and outside school, and of course we work hard for the exams especially the O Levels together. Activities conducted in school also make the secondary school days of my teenage life memorable and interesting.

So, how exactly one’s teenage years are like? Being in education is a major part of a teenage life, especially in Singapore. We cannot escape having to go to school to do homework and juggle between our CCAs commitments and life. However, it is also in school and through schools that we get to know friends of our age groups and get to interact and know them. Friends are the ones that in fact, make our teenage years memorable. They would help one another to work hard, play hard and strive hard for their goals of doing well in academic and CCAs etc.

The teenage years are also the most stressful years of one life. It is the phase of growing up from a young child to an adult. The teen would also be going through puberty, leading to emotional, mental and physical changes. It can be stressful when one struggles to understand the world, and make the world accept you. Add that on to the academic expectations from school and home, peer pressure, CCAs commitments and the struggle to manage time and you get a lot of stress weighing down on the teen. That could lead to emotional breakdown if the teenager does not know how to manage them. However, more often than not, schools would have helped the students to learn to cope by conducting workshops, and counselors made available. If the teenager could manage the stress, he/she could make his/her teenage years as less stressful as possible and hence, as meaningful as possible.

In my conclusion, although the teenage years are perhaps the most stressful years of one’s life, it is also the stage where one learns the most, interacts with, make and maintain friendships the most. Hence, it is in deed the best years of one life.

Articles : The STI, March 25,2007 "Its tough being a teen" & March 19, 2007 " Parents, beware the emo kids"