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PM - Friday, 25 November , 2005 17:22:00
Reporter: Lisa Millar
MARK COLVIN: More about the press and other reaction from Singapore now from Lisa Miller who's in Singapore and joins me on the line now.
Lisa, Daniel just mentioned in passing the Straits Times editorial there.
What about the rest of the media? Are they getting slightly more concerned about the Australian reaction than they have been?
LISA MILLER: Well, the Straits Times is what we had actually been pointed to. In fact, I was speaking to some local reporters when I first arrived here and said to them - reporters who worked for Reuters and AAP and the like - and I asked them how they got on operating here in Singapore, because I had already found so much difficulty trying to get access to any members of Parliament or anyone who was prepared to speak publicly to me.
And they said they have the same trouble even though they live and work here in Singapore, and they said to watch out for editorials in the Straits Times, that rather than holding a press conference the government will make sure that its thoughts and its opinions are being read.
So of course this morning the Reuters reporter actually rang me and said have you seen this editorial? This is very important. This is not just a newspaper editorial. This is the main English language daily.
And when we talk about the free press in Australia as we know it, that is not how people regard the Straits Times, that it is very closely connected to the governing party, the People's Action Party, and anything that is written in the party can basically be taken to reflect the government position.
And so we've got this editorial right next to a very lengthy feature piece by a senior writer who sets out a very complicated but interesting defence of the death penalty.
And when you put that on top of what we've seen over the last few days - we had the letter from the Speaker of the Parliament sent to David Hawker in Australia and we also had a press release that came out of here after the meeting with Rob Hos (sic) and Ho Peng Kee the Minister of State and Home Affairs…
MARK COLVIN: Rob Hulls.
LISA MILLER: … Rob Hulls, sorry, and Ho Peng Kee. And Ho Peng Kee put out a press release basically saying, thanks very much for coming but this is our opinion, this is how it stands and it absolutely isn't going to change.
So there's certainly been a real push in the strength and the tough stance from the Singapore Government and I think it's culminated with this editorial and the feature in the paper today.
MARK COLVIN: So, as you say, Singapore doesn't have a particularly free press. But any other outlets talking about it at all?
LISA MILLER: No, not at all. All we've seen is reports in the Straits Times. It's not been on any of the local television programs. And when we have gone to the prison to see the family arriving or have turned up at the press conferences with Rob Hulls as we did yesterday, there haven't been any local media who've been taking an interest in it at all.
Of course the anti-death penalty campaigners have been desperate to try and get some publicity here and even the stories that are making it into the Straits Times are really just clutching onto the rebuttals that have occurred. So it…
MARK COLVIN: And Lisa, no real reaction to the rumblings from Australia, some in newspapers and some from individuals, about boycotts of Singaporean products?
LISA MILLER: No. And that wasn't touched on today in this editorial either. It almost seemed to make fun, in a way, describing as in that earlier report that the execution is churning up quite a wash of angst from across the seas. But we're not seeing any sort of concern about the trade sanctions. I don't believe that they feel that that is a real threat.
MARK COLVIN: And what about any pressure that might or might not come on at CHOGM. They feel unthreatened by that as well?
LISA MILLER: Well, they do, and Ho Peng Kee was asked… Rob Hulls was asked whether Ho Peng Kee had given him any guarantee or indication that the letter that came from the Victorian Premier would actually be passed on to the Prime Minister immediately at CHOGM rather than waiting until he returns from his lengthy trip - I understand he's going on after CHOGM to see other people - so, there was no guarantee whether that letter was going to be passed on.
They feel that they are so right with this decision, that this is their laws, it's their country and they almost cannot understand that Australians think that it can just be altered, that leniency can be granted, that clemency can be granted just like that. This is the message they're trying to get through.
MARK COLVIN: Alright, Lisa Miller, thank you very much, as the clock runs down in Singapore for Van Nguyen.