24 Nov 2005

Freedom of Speech

I was emailed the following via Sg Review. I believe it was written by Sarong Party Girl although I will have to wait for confirmation.

Singapore ranks a dismal #140 on the Press Freedom index, and our eminent Senior Minister has pointed out that a more liberalized press does not necessarily result in ‘ a clean and efficient government or economic freedom and prosperity’. Looking at the Press Freedom index, with Singapore ranking behind countries like Argentina, the Philippines and even Indonesia, that statement certainly has more than an ounce of truth in it.

It must be acknowledged that the press has the potential to be as corrupt as any government, and that an independent media has as much propensity towards corruption as a press controlled by the government. A corrupt independent press would not necessarily encourage an efficient government, economic freedom or prosperity. As such, the purpose of a free press is questionable.

The inability to discern between the level of education of the general public of a nation and its economic state is where the Freedom of Press index falls short. An independent press is no use if people are not educated, open-minded or affluent enough to first understand and then change or make reasonable demands for change, of the state of their society.

An independent, objective press however, that seeks the truth beyond government interests, for the benefit of the country as a whole, while being aware that the government and the people make up the state of the nation, and that one cannot function efficiently without the other, is what is desired.

A press that is able to function autonomously within legal guidelines run by sensible people that is biased to no one, who’s aspiration is the thoroughly considered opinion of the truth, is what will eventually be needed for any country that desires to be taken seriously as part of the democratic elite of the developed countries.

The point for a more liberalized press, in my humble opinion, isn’t a clean and efficient government or economic freedom and prosperity, although given the right social situation in which people are educated and open-minded enough to discern truth from mere opinion, more economic freedom and prosperity will result. This is clearly observable in the developed nations that rank highest on the freedom of press index. Switzerland, one of the world’s richest nations, after whom much of Singapore’s democratic aspirations and politically neutral state with respect to the rest of the world is modelled after ranks #1 on the index.

A more liberalized press in a country of Singapore’s status as an educated nation is necessary for the freedom of expression in matters that Singaporeans feel strongly about. Matters that go beyond public spending for peripheral social desirables like toilets for the disabled, or the necessity for later opening hours for shops or even the changes in the education system and the opening of casinos upon our shores. In matters that question bureaucratic and corporate decisions without the fear of expulsion from the country without the means to appeal to a judiciary system that rests each decision upon her people. Because fear taints the sincerity of any opinion, and would naturally lead it to being biased towards the entity to which the fear is responsible.

An independent press, desirably, is the rational, objective voice of the people, not set up to be at odds with the government, but to bring out a broad public opinion on decisions that affect the core of Singaporean society. It allows for the communication of the genuinely taboo at its most unadulterated, taking into consideration all its factors, from cultural resistance to even and especially, political complication and corporate interests.

A press that is independent and thus freer is an outlet of expression for the people. It is important, not to mention only humane, that Singaporeans live in a state knowing that they are free as individuals, and that they have a collective right and thus a collective power to change things for the general good of society.

That capitalist aspirations and corporate interests initially came before the welfare of the people was necessary for Singapore’s economic development, and necessary for the development of an affluent society. But if Singapore is ever to become dynamic economically and culturally, a nation that truly belongs to the people, an independent press is inevitable, because her people need a voice that is our own.


Anonymous said...

as usual, PAP leaders skilfully sidetrack the issue into a different discussion, and SPG (or whoever the author was) went along happily

Anonymous said...

this is from the SPG site
Thursday, November 24, 2005
Freedom of Speech

It's easier to say fuck off, if you're not saying it alone.

An independent press is important because it gives the people a means to communicate among one another. It is important as a representative of the views of the collective.

I'm not educated enough in certain academic areas to know what will get me sent to jail and what will not. And most people probably don't either. So we shut up and know, yeah, there's maybe a couple of other freaks out there who think like me, but you can't find them, and possibly there's not enough of us anyway to change anything.

It's back to school all over again when the principal got us to sit and stand and sit and stand until we could stand up and start singing the national anthem in 2 seconds. Why didn't every one just sit and not stand or stand and not sit and sing the anthem once and be done with patriotic duty.

Because you don't know who was going to stand with you if you didn't sit when they told you to. And if you were the only one, you were fucked.

So let's just follow the rythm and tide of their demands; after all, it only lasts for a couple of periods, and you'll be in school for a couple of years.

So don't like it, so leave.


Anonymous said...

for those who still havnt been following it, PAP's position is largely dismissive (all those african countries more free? how can?)

a. it's unimportant because people care more about efficient government and prosperous economy

b. it's unimportant because people have access to overseas press/broadcasting/web and can express themselves through blogs

c. maybe; just maybe; is the index reliable, scientific, meaningful?

but it has not taken the trouble to discuss how free the press actually is; why SPH, a listed company with the public owning the shares rather than Temasek, should be suspected of being government controlled, etc;

fat lip said...

Well, there are the issues of:

1. management shares carrying 200 times the voting rights of ordinary shares
2. former ISD members driving editorial policy and senior management
3. key editorial appointments requiring the approval (at minimum) by the minister
4. a board made up of the who's who of the establishment
5. holdings of at least 22% of management shares in Temasek affiliated companies

These factors probably suggest something about the determinants of the tenor and scope of reportage.

hungry hippo said...

The MM and PAP's main assertion has always been that if we start to allow an inch of press freedom what we have built up over the past 3 decades will/might crumble.

What does this tell us? Literally they are saying press freedom is an obstacle to economic prosperity, which we know is bull looking at western developed nations. Secondly they are using fear to paralyze progress and arguments - fear of the unknow, fear of the 'what ifs'.

Thirdly why compare with Argentina or the Phillipines? Why not compare with those who are way ahead? As Jaime Han told MM, you can choose and pick examples to suit your arguments so likewise he or others can illustrate many more counter examples to rebutt MM's falsehoods.

Lastly, and this is probably the most obvious but least mentioned reason, is that by having tight control over the press and media, it cements and perpetuate the hold and power of the ruling class over the ruled.

Anonymous said...

well my point is still that PAP has yet again shifted the focus of the discussion to ground on which it is in control, and the article's author went along