The country presents itself as a modern liberal democracy yet has an autocratic political culture.The media is largely state-owned. Defamation and contempt laws threaten dissent. – The Guardian
Take a look at Singapore RSF rankings for the past five years or so:
2017 – 151st (Below South Sudan, Angola and Oman)
2016 – 154th (Below Tajikistan, Venezuela and Chad)
2015 – 153rd (Below Gambia, Turkey and Myanmar)
2014 – 150th (Below Ethiopia, Burundi and Libya)
2013 – 149th (Below Russia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cambodia)
As in previous years, Singapore still doesn’t look all that great when it comes to civil liberties, despite its economic success and first-world-isms. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index, our media freedom status is considered “unfree,” with press in Singapore described as actively prevented from exercising their right to freedom of conscience and expression.
Within the Southeast Asian region, Singapore scores horrendously in the media freedom ranking, landing on the 151 spot out of 180 countries in the world covered by the index. Singapore neighbors fare a lot better, with Myanmar at 137 and Thailand at #140, Malaysia at #145 Indonesia at #124, and the Philippines at #133.
To give you a sense of where Singapore is in the rankings, the country is ranked lower than the likes of Afghanistan (#118), Zimbawe ( 126 ) , Ukraine (#101), and Bangladesh (#146).
Source : coconuts
While Singapore may be regarded as one of the most economically free and liveable cities in the world, it doesn’t fare as well when it comes to press freedom and censorship. The skyscraper-laden financial hub languishes near the bottom of global rankings at 151st out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index.
Government-linked or owned media behemoths exercise a virtual monopoly over the country’s mainstream print and broadcast media. Journalistic content is regulated and liable to censorship, and in recent years activists, bloggers and cartoonists have been subject to detentions and charges of defamation and sedition.
Human rights observers say strict legislation, including a recently enacted anti-terror law permitting media blackouts in the event of terrorist attacks, has been deliberately designed to limit freedom of expression. “This results in a chilling effect and the exercise of self-censorship by journalists and media workers, both on and offline,” says Rachel Chhoa-Howard, researcher on Singapore at Amnesty International.
Kirsten Han has encountered this kind of government intimidation first-hand. As a civil society activist and editor-in-chief of New Naratif, an online news organization covering Southeast Asia, she has been affected by the changes in Singapore’s media landscape since the 2015 general election.
“The space in recent years has been shrinking,” she tells TIME. “The environment has been getting more tense and the government are now charging activists for all sorts of things and bringing in laws that will have an impact on press freedom.”
Source : Time
Media freedom in Singapore is legally and economically constrained to such a degree that in 2005 the vast majority of journalists practiced self-censorship rather than risk being charged with defamation or breaking the country’s criminal laws on permissible speech. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of expression in Article 14 but permits restrictions on these rights.
Legal constraints include strict censorship legislation, including the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, which allows authorities to restrict the circulation of any foreign periodical for publishing news that interferes in domestic politics, and the Internal Security Act, which gives officials the power to restrict publications that incite violence, arouse racial or religious tension, or threaten national interests, national security, or public order.
Given the government’s record of successfully suing critics under harsh criminal defamation laws, journalists most often refrain from publishing critical stories about corruption or nepotism. In September, the regional magazine FinanceAsia was forced to offer an apology and pay undisclosed sums of money to several national political leaders after it published an allegedly slanderous article.
The limits to political speech were reflected in the arts as well. In August, police ordered a 36-year-old filmmaker to surrender equipment used to make a documentary on opposition figure Chee Soon Juan. Chee himself was sued for defamation in 2001 and is now facing bankruptcy proceedings.
The vast majority of print and broadcast media outlets, as well as internet service providers and cable television services, are either owned or controlled by the state or by companies such as Singapore Press Holdings or Media Corp. that have close ties to the ruling party.
Moreover, annual licensing requirements cause media outlets to limit or moderate their criticism of the government. By law, the circulation of foreign news periodicals can be limited or barred, and foreign broadcasters are also subject to potential restrictions if they are deemed to be “engaging in domestic politics,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Internet use is widespread in Singapore, but political and religious websites are required to register with the government’s Media Development Authority. In recent months, the threat of defamation lawsuits has been used to inhibit criticism of the government in cyberspace, much as it has in Singapore’s traditional media.
Source : Freedom House
Why Singapore is cracking down on its already restricted press freedom
Singapore is tightening the reins even further on a press that critics say has never been free. So why is the city-state cracking down now? Reporters Without Borders’ Asia-Pacific director Daniel Bastard says Singapore’s “squeaky-clean image” is off to a rough start in 2018.
Reporters Without Borders recently declined an invitation by Singapore to provide evidence of fake news at a public hearing. Why?
Given the measures and practices being enforced in Singapore, we have every reason to believe that this proposal for a [sudden] dialogue might be politically exploited – at the expense of the substance of the issue.
We don’t use the expression “fake news” or “deliberate online falsehood”, as the Select Committee calls it, because it’s way too vague a notion. The draft laws that pretend to combat it around the world are not satisfactory – and this is true for Singapore or Malaysia, as well as for Brazil, Italy or France.
A democratic government shouldn’t define what is true or false. We believe this subject matter is far too important for democracy and the rule of law to run the risk to be instrumentalised, hence our reservations about providing evidence.
Singapore has not had a history of press freedom, so why does the government feel a need to crack down?
The Keppel O&M scandal, including a $50 million bribe [which resulted in a $442 million fine], is a shock for many Singaporeans. In a country where corporate governance is closely intertwined with political power, it is very likely that the government doesn’t want… further leaks concerning its business practices.
The context is complicated for Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, since Singapore was rocked by the revelation of an explosive feud within the Lee family. These are two elements that can explain why Singapore wants to be able to define what is true and what is false – and crack down on those who deliver undesired information.
Source : South East Asia Globe