Imagine a world without the internet, imagine a world where the media is controlled by the iron fist of the government. Not too long ago, as late as the late 90s and early 2000s this was a reality.
Before the internet became a household application, all Singaporeans had to rely on was the word of the government owned press and controlled media. So when the Straits Time reported that Amos Yee’s mother had reported Amos to the Police because she said he was an uncontrollable child by the Straits Time via an unnamed reliable source (let’s be a honest, an anonymous tip and probably an attempt to defame him so the issues he brought up would be looked over) many Singaporeans would have bought it hook, line and sinker but I was skeptical, since when were anonymous tips considered reliable sources?
The fact that the free agents, the internet sleuths, of “The Online Citizen” had a more journalistic approach when it came to covering the evidence of what Mrs Mary Yee said, you know, interviewing her instead of an unnamed source, just shows the lack of professionalism and integrity with the companies within the SPH.
Which brings me to my next point, many Singaporeans are under the impression that Singapore has freedom of press what with it’s many newspaper companies and magazines, I’m sorry to break this to you, friends, that is just an illusion.
All these companies belong to the same corporation.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that all of them answer to one boss.
Where North Korea succeeds in being an independent authoritarian country that shuts out any outside information from it’s citizens, Singapore fails drastically in this aspect because we seek out foreign talents, not just lower class foreign talents to clean the streets and roads but foreign talents from countries where human freedoms exist, so we need to keep the gates of information slightly ajar to keep dissent low, media is still tightly controlled just not as drastically as it is in North Korea.
However, printed media still holds most of the power as it is the most easily accessible form of media to the layman, therein lies the problem. When the only media allowed is government controlled, it’s not a stretch to say that it will be used for government propaganda, for an effective means of erasing blemishes in history and to tarnish the opposing dissenters, Mr Lee even admits that much.
“Freedom of the press, freedom of the news media, must be subordinated to the overriding needs of the integrity of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government”, Address To The General Assembly Of The International Press Institute At Helsinki, 9th June, 1971 – Lee Kuan Yew
And it is very effective, so effective that many people on the street still believe the lies about Dr. Chee Soon Juan being a rabble rouser and a troublemaker still persist, character assassination at its best.
When a simple internet search on Dr. Chee will show contradictions to what has been said about him by local media.
This is the issue that every opposition party in Singapore has to face, I’m not sure if it’s uniquely Singaporean that state own media is legally allowed to print libel, promote slander and character assassinations on opposition members but this is a practice that needs to be challenged by promoting freedom of press to allow citizens to have more than just one perspective and make up their own minds.
As big and wide as the internet is, most of us don’t have the time in our hectic schedules to look up current affairs affecting Singapore or Singaporean politics on the internet most of us use the internet to look up cat videos, I know I’m guilty of that. This is why freedom of press is paramount, it allows us to get a multifaceted view on issues and allows us to make up our own minds, a practice many of us take for granted.
I’ve already made up my mind about Straits Times and the recent coverage on Amos Yee is more evidence for me to not take them at face value.
“When the public’s right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered.” – Christopher Dodd