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.
24 Nov 2005
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.