Public must kick ball into MDA’s court

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By Trinity Chua and Mary Lee

Over the past four days, more than 20,000 netizens signed an online petition asking for the closure of the Singapore Press Holdings web portal, STOMP. The petition was launched by one Robin Li, who cited a number of inaccuracies as one of the main reasons for STOMP to be closed down.

“STOMP has failed to rectify and set simple sensible guidelines before any irresponsible netizen contributes a fabricated story (a photoshopped picture of an NS man refusing to give up his seat to an old lady) without getting the right facts,” Li said.

One commentator, Seprahina Lum, also said: “Either investigate and publish your submissions carefully with the well-being of citizens and civil discussion in mind, or stop this misleading demented nonsense you call journalism altogether.”

Among the 20,000 plus supporters against STOMP, one Hygel Helmy said: “STOMP encourages the worst kind of behaviour from Singaporeans. We’ll be better off without it.”

So far, SPH has not said anything publicly about inaccuracies in STOMP (Straits Times Online Mobile Print) reports.

And the Media Development Authority, the self-appointed moral policeman of the media here, has only said that it will investigate if it receives complaints from the public.

That statement in itself is a leap of faith by the MDA, which hardly responds to online media’s queries and criticisms.

But, why does MDA need the public to complain? It has one of the largest media monitoring units in the world to snoop of what on media is reporting. Why can’t it rely on that unit to get the information it wants?

Singapore Press Holdings describes STOMP as ‘Asia’s leading citizen-journalism website’. But it is more aptly described as a gossip page, where hysteria and trolling is the most common response to “reportage”.

Content is often lifted wholesale without attribution under the guise of “citizen-journalism”; no rigorous internal mechanism is present to fact check and to control quality of submissions.”

Last October, a Ministry of Communications and Information spokesman replied to a letter from blogger Andrew Loh about irresponsible postings:

“Apart from highlighting concerns with negative online behaviour, including those in STOMP, a user-generated site, the Government has also consistently pointed out that there are responsible online sites and responsible Internet users.

“In cases where there is inappropriate online behaviour but the party concerned acknowledges that they were wrong and makes appropriate amends, the Government has not pursued the matter further.”

Oh yes — SPH did apologise for using the “open MRT door” picture taken by a STOMP staff, which was promptly fired.

The ball is in the public’s court. It should kick it into MDA’s.