I couldn’t be in Hong Lim Park on the afternoon of 8 June. I was thousands of miles away in central Scotland. But I kept myself updated with the help of live-tweeters at the #FreeMyInternet protest, and was glad the event went well.
I was outraged when the Media Development Authority (MDA) first announced the new licensing scheme. It didn’t take long to realise that I wasn’t the only one, and joining the #FreeMyInternet group seemed the next logical step.
Many of the members of #FreeMyInternet were people I already knew – from the time I was working with The Online Citizen, as well as friends I’d made through Facebook and Twitter. But what was most surprising was the number of people I didn’t know.
When you get involved with civil society activities in Singapore you start to realise how small the circle is. Sometimes it feels like the same little group of people going from campaign to cause, supporting one another and working tirelessly on issue after issue.
While it’s great to have such a tight-knit circle of brave friends, the worry is often that we might have been unsuccessful in recruiting new people and reaching new segments of Singaporean society.
#FreeMyInternet was something different. It showed me that there were plenty of new people out there who were willing to put in the time and the energy and the passion into a cause that they cared about. It showed me that more and more Singaporeans are stepping up and getting involved. It showed me that the ‘climate of fear’ we’ve heard so much about in the past few years might finally be losing its grip.
The movement was more than just socio-political bloggers; there were lifestyle bloggers, LGBT bloggers, tech bloggers, food bloggers, etc. Judging from the photographs of the protest, the attendees were more than just young middle-class yuppie Facebook addicts, too; I saw faces old and young, all concerned about the potential erosion of internet freedom and free speech in Singapore.
It’s a sight that gives hope.