Singapore, A Police State?
Talking to my local friends and expat colleagues pretty much confirmed those “some peoples” opinion that there actually exists a little problem with the medias liability in Singapore. Obviously a little dark spot on Singapore’s bright red facade.
Later I followed and participated in a more or less heated debate about the general impression many foreigners have about the “police state” Singapore (SingaporeExpat Forum: Does It Feel Like Living In a “Police State” In Singapore).
Interestingly enough the person that started the discussion is currently living in China, making the “Police State” debate a little bit more explosive and surprising.
I didn’t know Singapore’s image in regards to state and government controlled media was that bad, even in China.
The outcome of the discussion was pretty much backing the first statement. People are (mostly) happy to live here, but undeniable the police and the government have more influence and control over certain areas then they should have.
A Wise Mans Opinion
Further motivated to find out more, I did some more research on the web stumbling over the following insightful statement about Singapore’s press machinery, a former editor of one of Singapore’s Newsletter gave in a speech at the University of California:
“… the PAP power is hegemonic power, in the Gramscian sense: it is a perfect blend of coercion and consent … Singapore’s newspapers are, at least in part, willing partners, of the state … the PAP did not suppress the press in order to cover up corruption or hide its mistakes. It did so out of a sincere belief that the press as an institution had a narrow and short-term view of the public interest, and that it could obstruct good government. Singapore’s press model thus reverses the equation of your First Amendment.
Here, the press, seen as the pure expression of democracy, is protected from the government, which, despite having been elected democratically, is assumed automatically by your political culture to have undemocratic tendencies. In the Singapore model, the elected government is the expression of democracy, and it is protected from the press, which is unelected and therefore undemocratic …
“The ‘freedom from the press’ model does mean that newspapers must operate within much narrower perimeters than their counterparts in most parts of the world. It must accept its subordinate role in society…The tone of stories must be respectful towards the country’s leaders. They can be critical, but they cannot ridicule or lampoon.”
“In the Singapore model, the elected government is the expression of democracy, and it is protected from the press, which is unelected and therefore undemocratic”
Words that don’t need any further discussion.
Freedom Of Press, Where?
Not surprisingly though, that the “Reporters without borders” ranked Singapore on a golden 147th place out of 166 countries for freedom of press and speech in 2007 as I found out when clicking through the many articles that popped up upon googeling “freedom of press in singapore”.
So what now?
Besides the obvious influence the government has on the local press machinery, the quality of independent news stories is unfortunately below standard as well. This gives you the easy option to just ignore them.
Singapore is a really nice place to live in and although you might be surprised about some too obvious opinion building articles or government decisions and statements, the average expat should not have any problems with the local medias direction.
My advise is to simply cross check your daily information and even better just to rely on the internet as your primary point of information gathering instead of the likes of Straits Time, TODAY and MyPaper.