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Who owns The Online Citizen

21 Oct

The Online Citizen  (TOC) is a socio-political website which serves as a community blog of Singaporeans. It endeavours to reflect the views and opinions of ordinary Singaporeans and welcomes contribution of articles from any Singaporean that has a view to share. The blog often carry anti-government sentiments.

On its Facebook page, TOC describes itself as “just a bunch of blogivists (bloggers + activists). Don’t shoot us!” Started in December 2006 as a community blog, the website soon gained popularity and attracted much attention from Singaporeans who were thirsty to find out news stories that were not covered by the mainstream media. The blog is run by ‘advocacy citizen journalists’ who aim to shed light and comment on national issues and happenings.

On January 10, 2011, the site was forced to register as a political association. The government asserted that the blog was gazetted because the editors of the website “organized polls on political issues and a forum for politicians, and mounted online and offline campaigns to change legislation and government policies.”

TOC acting chief editor is Joshua Chiang, 35. The website’s co-founders are Choo Zheng Xi, 25, and Andrew Loh, 43. Mr Loh left TOC in December 2010 and has recently launched a new socio-political website, Public House. Little has been said about the men behind the largely popular website. This is, however, not very surprising as the blog is afterall a platform for discussion and political thought for Singaporeans. The blog’s articles are not solely written by these men themselves. As the administrators of the website, they edit and upload the stories that Singaporeans write in onto TOC’s website.

It is however unclear who owns TOC.


One Election, Many Themes

2 Sep

A few pertinent themes surfaced in the blogposts my coursemates and I wrote. It is worthwhile to look at these themes because underneath them lie deep seeded issues that have been brought up time and time again. After reading through the stories, I categorized them as follow:

Social Media

A couple of friends talked about the use of social media in this election. The May General Election was dubbed a social media election. It is no surprise that analysts are keeping tabs on how social media has been employed in the Presidential Election as well. Anjali wrote at length about how social media was used in covering the results of the elections. However, she also showcased in her post the ills and downside of using social media in a live broadcast. This was most apparent when a laughable comment made on the channel’s twitter account was shown live on television.

Taken from Anjali’s blogpost:

This tweet went viral and it wasn't long before it became the butt of jokes

Singaporeans who did not vote

This was covered by two of my coursemates, Yi Han and Natalie. I thought this was a refreshing angle to take because much has been said about Singaporeans who ho exercised their rights as citizens and voted for their seventh president but not many stories focused on the people who did not have their say. Yi Han brought up an interesting issue, one that has not been covered in the papers before – of Singaporeans who did not vote in the Presidential Election because they were unaware of the deadline that they would have to meet in order to reinstate their names. The interviews that both of them had in their stories were also appropriate and strong as they managed to find people that can support their story angles.

Reporting ‘live’ from the gathering place

A couple of friends blogged about what happened on the night the results were released. These were reported from the gathering places of the various candidates. Tamilai was at Dr Tony Tan’s gathering place (Toa Payoh Stadium) whilst Wonky Wan  and Samantha Branson was at Dr Tan Cheng Bok’s gathering area (Clementi Stadium). Their blogposts were interesting as the writers gave a first hand account of what happened throughout the night. It gave me, the reader, a good feel of the events of the night as they gave a minute to minute account. In particular, Wonky Wan incorporated multimedia and a slideshow of photos in his post. He also managed to get good quotes from the supporters present at the stadium and these capture their mood and raw emotions.

This quote from Wonky Wan stands out to me in particular because it aptly represents a generation who is increasingly politically conscious:

One of his youngest supporters present at Jurong East Stadium, Poh Emran, 15, said he is “happy for Singapore to have a new President” and if he could say one thing to Dr Tan Cheng Bok now, it would be “Thank you and (the campaign was) a job well done”.

Samantha, on the other hand, took some excellent photos. I find this the most poignant:

A tired looking Dr Tan Cheng Bok thanking and greeting his supporters. Photo credits: Samantha Branson

Voters and the prevailing mood of the election

There were a few opinions on how well received the election was by the younger voters. In his blog post, Kenneth wrote about how young Singaporeans were excited about the election. He later moves on to talk about how these young people made their decision on who to vote for base on materials found on alternative media. Twofourfive on the other hand, wrote about how there was not much hype and excitement surrounding the Presidential Election. She managed to get good quotes from Singaporeans (of all ages) which acurately reflected the disinterest and this helped strengthen her story and made her angle believable.

One of them being:

An elderly citizen, Mdm Teo, expressed her discontent, saying, “This is so troublesome. I had to come here from the market just to vote.”


A few course mates such as Wen Tong and Ken gave an overview of the election. One which left an impression is Amelia Tan’s post on the silent majority and how they are a formidable force. It is a fresh perspective, one which throws light on a group of people that has not been mentioned much, if at all. Her lead paragraph was wonderfully crafted and it drew me into the story at once.

My Thoughts

Reading these blogposts gave me a comprehensive understanding of the Presidential Election and brought me to think of issues which I had not consider previously. What makes a good story is one with strong angle, supplemented with appropriate interviews and quotes. Incorporating photos and videos into the blogpost, as Wonky Wan did, are plus points as they add colour to the story.

Political high comes to a low in Presidential Election

1 Sep

The political game caught on like wild fire amongst many young Singaporeans during the General Election, but seemed to have died down in the recent Presidential Election

Throngs of young people turned up at political rallies such as this during the campaigning period of the General Election. Photo Credits: The Online Citizen

A few days before Singaporeans head to the polls to vote for their President, Ms Stephanie Tan logged onto Facebook, expecting to find out what was being said about the candidates on the social networking site.

Much to her surprise, there was little talk about the Presidential Election (PE) save for a few comments and repost of news stories.

This was a far cry from the General Election (GE) when her Facebook and Twitter feed was inundated with self-penned articles, discussions, status updates and links to political websites, said the 22-year-old auditor.

Ms Tan also noted that the topic of electing our next president was rarely brought up during conversations with her friends.

“Everyone was talking about politics during the GE but this time round, things seem quieter. At times, it didn’t even feel like we were having an election,” she added.

Singapore elected its seventh president last Saturday in a nail biting race. Dr Tony Tan emerged victorious by a razor-thin margin of 0.4 per cent. Runner-up Dr Tan Cheng Bok trailed Dr Tony Tan by a mere 7,269 votes.

The unprecedented race saw four candidates vying for the keys to the Istana. In the only other contested election in 1993, there were only two contenders.

Fresh from the May elections, which roused the political consciousness of many Singaporeans, one could expect the political high from the GE to spill over to the PE.

Many whom this writer spoke to, however, noted that the PE was not as warmly received especially amongst the younger voters.

“The disinterest could perhaps be due to the fact that the President do not affect our everyday life as much as the government does. We were after-all electing our Members of Parliament for our constituency in the GE,” said Mr Lee Wenkai, 24.

The banker said that he gauges the prevailing mood of the PE and its hype amongst his peers base on social media such as his Facebook feed and in his conversations with his friends.

Mr Lee was however quick to point out that though there was lesser hustle and bustle on social media in this PE, it did not mean that youths were apathetic.

The comparatively limited role of the President coupled with the fact that there were lesser candidates to scrutinize could have attributed to the dearth of postings online, he noted.

“People were still concerned with the matter, and from what I observed, they still bothered to find out about the candidates. But it was quieter this time round probably because there’s less to discuss about in the first place,” he said.

While the lack of talk online might serve as an indicator of the popularity of the PE among younger voters, it does not give a holistic picture, as there were some who still turned to mainstream media for news.

Ms Tiffany Tham, 22, kept abreast with the election news by reading The Straits Times everyday.

The final-year communication studies student said that she prefers reading the papers to online commentaries because “there is more structure in a traditional news story”.

“Editors help readers sift the wheat from the chaff. Even though I know that there are many sources out there, I do not have the luxury of time to assess for myself which bloggers are better than the others,” she said.

Ms Tham agreed with Mr Lee’s view that lesser talk online does not translate to indifference.

Whether or not there was hype built around the PE, what is of most significance is that these young voters make a discerning choice, she added.

“Ultimately, it is about making a rational, informed decision and choosing the one whom they feel would rise to the President’s role,” she said.


Singaporeans’ hopes for the new President

Five young Singaporeans share their expectations of the President-elect, Dr Tony Tan, as he officially begins his six year term today.

Joel Haw, 30, Senior Technical Service Officer

“My hope is that he would be a people’s president – one who would go out and meet regular Singaporeans, talk to them and find out their concerns and if necessary, feedback these concerns to the government.”

Goh Yiling, 23, Management Trainee

“I hope he would hear the voices of the people and safeguard their interest while working together with the government to sustain the nation’s economy.”

Jonathan Goh, 22, Undergraduate

“To be an international representation of dignity and good stewardship, so that the reputation of Singapore can be enhanced – to use his considerable soft power to benefit Singapore overseas and at home through charity. And to be a head of state that we can be proud of.”

Jamie Lui, 27, Civil Servant

“To advance causes which are in the best interest of Singaporeans and for him to have the foresight to make decisions that will bring the country forward.”

Phang Xiao Feng, 25, Undergraduate

“I wish for him to have genuine care for Singaporeans and to support causes that would benefit and help the less privileged.”