Press can criticise, but Govt expects right of reply

I refer to the Straits Times report dated 28 Oct 2009.

Mr Shanmugam was reported to have said that Singapore’s low ranking in press freedom is both absurd and divorced from reality. Is Mr Shanmugam man enough to allow international organisations to conduct a referendum or a survey to verify just how true his allegation is?

He questions how people can be unempowered in a modern, open economy. China is a good example. It’s economy is not only open but one that is very rapidly modernising as well. Yet, the people of China remain firmly gripped by communism. So his question is really quite silly given the living example that clearly demonstrates that it is indeed possible.

Mr Shanmugam implies that it is not possible for a modern, successful, wired and internationally connected city like Singapore to be a repressive state where people’s thoughts are controlled. But thought control happens even in modern and prosperous Japan. Since the end of World War 2, generations of Japanese have been brought up to believe that the Nanking massacre never happened and that the Japanese were the victims rather than the aggressors of the war. So too in Singapore, students have been receiving an education slanted towards the vitures of the government. This mind setting process throughout their formative years hardens quite often into stone for the rest of their lives.

Furthermore, many old folks in Singapore are either uneducated or cannot read English. They are not connected to the Internet but are dependent instead on Chinese or malay or Indian news supplied by virtually state owned newspapers. So despite Singapore being wired internationally, there is a significant proportion of us who aren’t.

Mr Shanmugam states that the government demands the right of reply but that right of reply is not extended to the people. So in that sense, it is true that the media favours the government but not the man on the street.

Mr Shanmugan also says that critics of government policies should avoid personal attacks or that which is untrue. But it was precisely on the 11th Oct 2009 that Minister Mah Bow Tan personally attacked some Singaporeans over application claims. Furthermore, the allegations made by Minister Mah weren’t entirely true either. Is this how things work in Singapore? The govt has the right to make personal attacks and to say things which may only be half true while the people are refrained from doing so?

Mr Shanmugan brushes off Singapore’s low ranking by Reporters Without Borders by implying that since Singapore’s social order is much better than those of Guinea, Kenya, Congo or Venezuela, Singapore’s press freedom must necessarily be better. That is not necessarily true. The law and order in China is much better than Guinea, Kenya, Congo or Venezuela. Yet we all know that China is a communist state that imposes strict controls on the press and what it publishes. So Mr Shanmugam’s argument is simply nonsense. You can have very strict press controls with reasonably good law and order. In this case, the same agent that is enforcing strict law and order is also the one enforcing strict press controls.

So if Mr Shanmugam wishes to question the objectivity of the rankings, it needs to come up with more objective arguments than merely equating law and order with press control.

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4 Responses to “Press can criticise, but Govt expects right of reply”

  1. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 9 Nov 2009 Says:

    […] Message from a Media Insider – My Thoughts: Why Changing Headlines is Bad – Yours Truly Singapore: Press can criticise, but Govt expects right of reply – The Temasek Review: Temasek Review writes to SPH CEO Alan Chan to seek further […]

  2. Commoner of Commons Says:

    Well said.

    You have demolished his assertions, which have never been in any way convincing at all.

    The fact that he had to make use of Prof Bryan Caplan’s essay to substantiate his arguments clearly shows that he has nothing of his own to offer.

    This guy has been a backbencher for donkey years. Now that he has been made a Mini$ter, he has no choice but to show that he is indebted to his Master. We can emphatise but we should not allow such nonsense to be spouted unchallenged.

    Great job. Keep up the good work.

  3. contrarian Says:

    The people of China, and even the CCP leadership, acknowledge that it is far from the desired state of attaining communism. Most people can see that China is communist in name only.

  4. The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Weekly Roundup: Week 46 Says:

    […] a Media Insider [Recommended] – My Thoughts: Why Changing Headlines is Bad – Yours Truly Singapore: Press can criticise, but Govt expects right of reply – The Temasek Review: Temasek Review writes to SPH CEO Alan Chan to seek further clarifications – […]

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