26 Nov 2005

Dr Chee trains guns on foreign media, former Australian PM

Weekend • November 26, 2005
Derrick A Paulo

Opposition figure Dr Chee Soon Juan has long criticised the local media for feeding Singaporeans with only the Government's views.

On Friday, he admitted he has also been disappointed with the foreign media for the longest time.

Speaking at a lunch with foreign and local journalists, Dr Chee said that international media organisations with offices here either "stay away from critical and hard-nosed reporting" or self-censor political stories on Singapore.

He claimed that overseas publications, too, have "capitulated in every instance" to the Singaporean authorities.

The Government's stance that foreign media should not meddle in Singapore's domestic affairs has long been established.

However, Dr Chee questioned the foreign media's objectivity.

"That is exactly why I am so vexed. By self-censoring or completely staying away from reporting Singaporean politics, are you being neutral?" he asked members of the Foreign Correspondents' Association.

An example of this, he claimed, was the lack of coverage on the growing civil society and activism here.

"In the past 12 months, we've seen some Singaporeans finally become more active in speaking up, that you'd never have seen in the years past.

"And it's the most disheartening, discouraging feeling when they get into trouble and the foreign media stays away, doesn't want to report," he said.

However, the "bigger point" for Dr Chee is that other governments are following Singapore's method of handling the media. He mentioned Thailand and China.

"People are looking at Singapore ... How do you do it? To be able to continue to keep this facade that you are a well-run society, have the popular backing of the people," he said.

"They are learning. They see Singapore as a model. I do worry that are we going to see a rollback (of democracy)."

Interestingly, while he has been criticised for joining the Australian chorus against the government over the impending execution of Nguyen Tuong Van, he took umbrage at former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam's characterisation of Singapore as a "rogue Chinese port city".

"In the first place, Singapore is a nation and not just a port city ... To use language that does not recognise this fact is disrespectful to the people of Singapore," Dr Chee wrote to the Australian High Commission.

"Second, Singapore is not 'Chinese'. Our population is made up of various ethnic groups including Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians, and smaller communities of various ethnicities. We call ourselves Singaporeans, not Chinese."

He added that many Singaporeans disagreed with the Singapore Government and were praying that the execution would not take place.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

i think DR CSJ's speech should be posted on the SDP website ASAP, while there is public interest after this Today follow-up.

Anonymous said...

Dr Chee is right. Other countries are looking at the Singapore model, not just in terms of dealing with the media but in other areas too. Like I said in another thread, after 2 Dec there will be intense pressure on other SE Asian countries not to grant clemency to those foreigners convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death. If they succumb to foreign pressure they will look stupid (they won't look like paragons of compassion), since a far smaller country withstood all the pressure. I see that NZ PM Helen Clark has now also interceded on Nguyen's behalf at the Commonwealth Summit by informally protesting to PM Lee. Where is Howard? His own countryman and yet he is silent at CHOGM!?

locky2ky said...

how come the Singapore govt does not respond to the offensive remark by the former Aussie PM?

John Lee said...

you mean by Gough Whitlam, about the 'Chinese rogue porty city'?
Whitlam was PM in the early 1970's and is now in his eighties, I don't think anyone takes him seriously anymore

but I did find it a tad ironic, coming from the Aussie PM who opened relations with China during the cultural revolution

John Lee said...

sorry, that's 'port city'

locky2ky said...

you mean nobody takes LKY who is also an ex-PM and in his eighties seriously anymore?

coming from an ex-politician, i think it is appropriate for us to register our displeasure with the remark.

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