Risks in having free press
Sat, Nov 06, 2010

The media does not operate in a vacuum, said Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law Mr K Shanmugan in a speech he gave at the inagurual forum "A Free Press for a Global Society" at Columbia University.

Singapore's society, "cannot withstand the harm that can be caused by giving our media the role that the US media has," said Mr Shanmugam.

He lists down the Singapore view on media, namely:

  • It should be a neutral medium for conveying news - with commentary clearly separate from news;
  • It should report fully and fairly what goes on. It can probe, ask inconvenient questions, and expose wrong-doing;
  • But it should not join the political fray and become a political actor. It should not campaign for or against a policy position. The media can and should convey the views of opposing political actors - and people can judge for themselves the validity of any particular point of view. If a journalist or a newspaper owner wants to take part in the political process, then he or she should join a political party, and not use the privileged access to the media to push a political perspective.

The minister readily admits that these views are not popular, particularly with the media, and this is the reason why Singapore gets unwanted attention from international media.

This is despite a Gallup poll that he cited, wherein 69 per cent of Singaporeans said that they trust the media. In contrast, the figure for the US was only 32 per cent.

Mr Shanmugam noted: "We believe that our system works for us, and we don't shut out the world."

Next: Full transcript of the speech >>

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