Dr James Gomez is the Executive Director of the NGO Singaporeans for Democracy. He is also a member of the Singapore Democratic Party.
“THEY” have always been around, but they often put their head out and “peak” during elections and in the run up to Singapore`s 11th general elections it will be no different. So who are THEY?
They are the “commentators” often sought after by local mainstream “cub” reporters. The old media dogs also use them, but only when necessary and when it suits their purposes.
These commentators are often local, if not they work in local instituitions and are always handy to speak “expertly” on local politics and stake their say on civil society and political parties` developments.
They are spectator commentators, reviewing websites and other online content. Occasionally braving a public actively like a large public forum or rally where they might be less invisible. Often they shy away from smaller seminars where they would have to actually interact with the people and organizations they comment on.
Apart from being media commentators, they also are speakers at forums which the instituitions they belong to organizes. From such perches, they also comment on politics and civil society and such musings are too covered by the local media.
So what is wrong with such commentators and why be wary of their pronoucements?
We should be wary of such commentators because they speak about processes and instituitions such as selected civil society groups and opposition parties with whom they have no direct access or privy to their inner workings.
The damaging part is their very comments are multiplied in the mainstream media and run the risk of being taken up by readers as accurate. The danger is that an inaccurate image of the Singapore political opposition and civil society is presented and perpetuated.
We often zoom in and complain about the local media, but it is also important to keep an eye on these “commentators” because often they are the source of the problems.
Their “comments” help shape some of the local mainstream media reports. Other times their viewpoints go further in “academic” writings and can influence those who read or cite them.
So come this election, be a bit discerning or at least beware of these commentators!