The Dark Truth About Singapores Newspapers

“.. Singapore’s newspapers are, at least in part, willing partners, of the state ..”

Is this true? What should you be aware of when living in Singapore and not wanting to be influenced and controlled unknowingly by the states instruments, in this case seemingly the media.

I personally knew Singapore better for being the “cleanest” city of the world and the famous “Chewing Gum” ban then for being a Pseudo-Democratic country with government controlled institutions in all kind of public areas before moving to Singapore.

Gathering some information might not be the worst thing to do before switching on the local TV channels, opening the daily Newspapers or believing the loud talking voices claiming Singapore’s above dark side. After all I really like it here and I don’t want my overall impression to be disturbed my “some” people, emphasizing this bad image of Singapore.

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.

Flash Striking Into SingaporePhoto by Rooymans

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.

comments

10 Comments

Jakob

Right on. I have been barely reading the local rags for years now, ever since the Internet exploded. We’re meant to be docile drones!

melvin

Hi, first off, nice looking blog, i just followed u on twitter (melvinkee). I think there is no dispute about the influence of the government on the national press but this surely is not an isolated issue as all press work /play hand in hand with the policies and direction of governments.
Freedom of the press is not to be confused IMO with citizen journalism which is what you are doing very well. I think most papers if not all hardly carry a full perspective on any issue. After all, the aim is to sell copies and keep the tins full. But yes, you’re right that we all need to read more and widely in order to gain those insights and formulate opinions for ourselves.

thanks!
Melvin
http://melvinmuse.blogspot.com/

joe

Hi,

Thanks for the post. Many of us do know this for a very long time. To see where it all began, I present to you a quote by our esteemed leader, Mr Lee KY when he was the opposition member.

“Repression, Sir is a habit that grows. I am told it is like making love-it is always easier the second time! The first time there may be pangs of conscience, a sense of guilt. But once embarked on this course with constant repetition you get more and more brazen in the attack. All you have to do is to dissolve organizations and societies and banish and detain the key political workers in these societies. Then miraculously everything is tranquil on the surface. Then an intimidated press and the government-controlled radio together can regularly sing your praises, and slowly and steadily the people are made to forget the evil things that have already been done, or if these things are referred to again they’re conveniently distorted and distorted with impunity, because there will be no opposition to contradict.”

– Lee Kuan Yew as an opposition PAP member speaking to David Marshall, Singapore Legislative Assembly, Debates, 4 October, 1956

The circle is now complete.

admin

Thanks for the comments so far, and very interesting indeed, Lee Kuan Yew, as the opposition leader in 1956, that was news to me, and sounds even more ironic now…

sky

Before attempting to critique the nation state you’re currently living in and which you owe your job to, try fixing your appalling spelling and grammar first instead.

“I personally knew Singapore better for being the “cleanest” city of the world and the famous “Chewing Gum” ban then for being a Pseudo-Democratic country with government controlled institutions in all kind of public areas before moving to Singapore.”

“…but undeniable the police and the government have more influence and control over certain areas then they should have.”

GO FIGURE

Sih Yean Pheng

You are a angmo, Singapore government scare of angmo scare of you. If I make noise in Singapore, they see me as a yellow dog barking post no threat to them, if they find me pitiful they will throw some “chicken bones” for dog to eat.

JC

Hi there. I think responsiblity is something that is nobody wants to take up. Basically, what I want from ST is: responsible reporting i.e. being responsible for what they say. Words in the media are very powerful as they are read by a wide audience. While papers from USA for example have their “rights”, my question is that, what about the rights of those people who are being reported about? Should they not have the right to defend themselves?

I think from a foreigner’s point of view, you have not really experienced what happens when there is a racial riots. LKY and my grandparents have experienced it before. And I believe they do not wish to experience it again. Let’s not forget Singapore is a “little red dot” AND we are afterall surrounded by countries that can take things a little bit more personally…

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