A Free Press for a Global Society – Q&A

Dear Mr Shanmugam,

I refer to your responses during the Q&A session after your speech on 4 Nov 2010 at the Columbia University.

If you were to put the US, UK, Australia and all the other developed countries together with Singapore on a straight line starting from the most liberal on the right to the most illiberal on the left, all the countries will bunch up on the right while we stand alone on the extreme far left. That’s how much more outlying we are compared to the US. Because the US is so much closer to the mainstream than us, their criticism of us shouldn’t be brushed off as being extremist.

Rightfully, even without the Reynold’s privilege, we should still be able to stand on even grounds with the ruling party when it comes to expressing our opinions. But unfortunately that’s not the case. All paid newspapers have been merged into one company that leans towards the ruling party. There is little or no avenue for contrarian views in printed media. We do not have healthy, robust debate in public life. We can’t say what is right or what is wrong. We can’t have a different perspective or a different viewpoint. It is not fair game for us.

The supposed ‘factual allegation’ that has surfaced in Singapore is not that ‘he stole’ or ‘he is corrupt’ but that the ‘Singapore leadership runs in the Lee family’. That factual and undeniable statement of truth has been taken to be an allegation of nepotism for which the IHT has been sued for. What justice do we have?

Our defamation laws have led to the dumbing down effect on us no less. Imagine we can’t even utter the undeniable truth that the Singapore leadership runs in the Lee family without fear of getting sued for defamation. How much more dumb can you get? Serious people would not bother to fight the ruling party anymore because they know they will end up being dumbed down.

There is no denying the importance of defending one’s reputation. But you don’t defend your reputation by denying or suppressing facts and truths. The one person who could do that was Stalin. But after he died, there was no stopping the truth from surfacing and for his reputation to be thrashed.

Not taking survival for granted doesn’t mean that we therefore strangle truth and freedom of speech to death. We do not have to zip up the people’s mouths to survive. Only dictatorships like North Korea need to do that to survive.

The people have never disagreed with the need for racial harmony and for the need to curtail any speech that endangers racial harmony. But that should not be used as an excuse to curtail all freedom of speech. The printed media shuns away from contrarian views that put the ruling party’s policies, speeches, explanations in bad light. Is that how the ruling party looks good, by simply not reporting the bad?


One Response to “A Free Press for a Global Society – Q&A”

  1. patriot Says:

    Does the people have to believe in whatever that’s in the State Medias? And if there are any independent objective views that are commonly shared by the citizenry, does the pro establishment contents in the Official/ State Medias matters?
    Me sees it as a failure of the people for being not able to connect amongst themselves to come together to make concerted efforts to disprove so-called propaganda and contents of the State Medias. In short, there is lack of cohesiveness or the masses are simply too fragmented due to selfishness, individualism and cowardice; the so-called kiasu, kiasi and kiachenghu.


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