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e-Democracy update - 12/4/06 - New e-forum in Victoria and online debate banned in Singapore

12 April, 2006
By Daniel Macpherson

Local e-Forum launched in Victoria

Last month Darebin City Council in Victoria launched an offical version of their online discussion forum for local issues.

It was launched as part of their breakfast seminar on "Dialogue of Civilisations".

Council will manage the site while Deakin University e-democracy researcher Lucas Walsh will monitor its progress and independently evaluate it.

Its first topic "Community Harmony" will explore the concepts of intercultural engagement and intercultural dialogue, according to forum moderator and Senior Social Planning and Policy Officer Monika Merkes.

The forum was originally designed and tested in a pilot program during 2004. Find more details on the pilot program here

View the Darebin e-Forum here.

Singapore bans online debate

Singapore Communications minister Balaji Sadasivan says anyone using the internet to discuss Singapore politics during election periods is breaking the law.

"In a free-for-all internet environment, where there are no rules, political debate could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse, flush with rumors and distortions to mislead and confuse the public," Mr Sadasivan said.

Singapore's Parliamentary Election Act was amended in 2001 to allow political advertising on the internet if registered with the government.

The amendment aims to ensure responsible use of the internet during campaigning and curbs the abuse of the medium.

Blogger Steven McDermott, who runs Singabloodypore, says he will continue to blog without registering with the government.

"This blog is not registered with the Singaporean government, has never been asked to register, and if invited to register would NOT register," he says.

"I also intend to post material of an 'explicitly political nature' during the elections and will gladly show videocasting and podcasting of election rallies, [and] speeches… of opposition candidates."

A spokesperson for media watchdog Reporters Without Borders says the ban would prevent democratic debate on the net.

"Once again the Singapore authorities are showing their determination to prevent the holding of a genuinely democratic debate on the internet," the spokesperson says.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has not yet set a date for Singapore’s general election, due by June 2007, but many expect him to call an early election in the next few months.

UK minister begins blogging

Britain's Minister of Communities and Local Government has started a blog to bridge the "growing and potentially dangerous gap" between politicians and the public.

Minister of Communities and Local Government David Miliband launched a live version of the blog last month. Prior to this, he blogged privately for a few months within his department

"My focus will be on my ministerial priorities and I will be sticking to the ministerial rules about collective responsibility," Mr Miliband says.

Mr Miliband says the Hansard Society will independently evaluate the blog as part of a Department for Constitutional Affairs pilot into use of information and communication technology by central government.

New Media Awards 2006

Political magazine The New Statesman is looking for nominees for its annual New Media Awards, which promotes positive impacts of new media technology on public life.

The New Media Awards began in 1998 to highlight creative and innovative use of communication technology. This year's event will focus on themes of innovation, usability and efficiency with nominees eligible for eight different categories.

The closing date for all nominations is 31 May 2006.

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