5 Aug 2006

Government tries to make five foreign publications censor themselves

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the Singapore government for putting pressure on on the Far Eastern Economic Review and four other foreign publications to censor themselves.

“The authorities are looking for effective ways, including fear of prosecution and heavy fines, to intimidate these publications into censoring themselves,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “This is the latest threat against the foreign media, which are the only means of reporting independently on political and economic events in the country since the local press is controlled by the government.”

The information, communications and arts ministry gave the monthly Far Eastern Economic Review until 11 September to comply with section 23 of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act. The magazine has been registered as a foreign publication since it criticised the government’s domestic policy in 1987 but had an exemption from some legal requirements which has now been cancelled. It must have a legal representative in the country by the ministry’s deadline and pay a deposit of 200,000 Singapore dollars (100,000 euros). For other foreign publications, the International Herald Tribune, Time magazine, the Financial Times and Newsweek, have been ordered to do the same when their licences come up for renewal.

This crackdown follows an interview in the Far Eastern Economic Review with opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, who the magazine called a national “martyr” because of the many lawsuits against him.

The ministry said the press law “serves to reinforce the government’s consistent position that it is a privilege, and not a right, for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore” and that foreign media should simply “observe the local scene and not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore.”

The Far Eastern Economic Review, the International Herald Tribune, the Asian Wall Street Journal and The Economist were heavily fined in 2004 after they ran articles considered “hostile” or “libellous” by the government. As well as paying a fine of 200,000 euros, The Economist had to apologise for an article criticising the appointment of the prime minister’s wife as head of a large financial institution.

Reporters Without Borders ranked Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its 2005 worldwide press freedom index.


Anonymous said...

Bloggers censured, plays banned, and now trying to keep a stranglehold on the foreign press.

Seriously, what happened to Lee Hsien Loong's more open society? And why is he delegating the national day speech to his deputy? Is he sick or dead?

I hope the latter.

soci said...

Empty rhetoric yet again.

Could he even change the system if he tried? It is a real pity but this culture of censorship was created by the PAP for their own ends and it seems that they have created a monster that doesn't know how or want to stop.

Allowing bungies and bar top dancing seems to have been the only 'opening up' since Goh left office.

My concern is that for now bloggers and the internet have not been too severly targeted apart from the 'seditious' bloggers spouting racism. With the mass media and foreign newspapers being brought to heal and the press attention of late in the ST it has become a question of 'when will we be targeted?' not 'will we be targeted?'. 'When' not 'if' is a rather precarious position to be in.

The IMF/WB visit could bring things rather quickly to the boil.

Use anonymous emailers, proxy servers etc. Keep your head down and keep moving is probably the best advice.

My name and face are known and I intend to return to Sg one day but I have no intention of complying with any governmental request to alter the content of this site or comments section.

September could be a very interesting month for the Singapore Blogosphere. There is definitely an information gap being created by the censorship moves of the government. Bloggers, commentators, forumers can fill that gap.

Anonymous said...

the censorship machinery is only a machinery; it gets used so much is because the government runs everything, and gets the blame for everything, so it has to be cautious about everything

Jason said...

Frankly, I do not know why foreign publications want to have their regional offices here.

They should relocate to another country in ASEAN, perhaps Thailand.

Anyway, they need not sell their publications here.

Most of us know that the public (growing in numbers every year) get the news from the Internet.

These publications will do themselves some good while keeping to their principles if they leave this country and seek their business elsewhere.

The gains outweigh the minor 'losses'.

teck soon said...

Imposing fines and fees on foreign publications will not work for much longer. Publications can fight back. One of these publications will tire of kowtowing to the Singapore government. An editor will start a serious of articles extremely critical of the Singapore government and it will reach a huge international audience. This will more than avenge any fine that Singapore may impose. International newspapers have a lot more power than many people may realise. Rather than the Singapore government holding their $200,000 payments hostage to enforce self-censorship, it would be easy for a foreign newspaper to hold the Singapore government hostage. Simply show a few ministers what will be published about Singapore in the next five issues if Singapore tries to fine them or restrict them too much!

Anonymous said...

ah..but do foreign editors know how to crititize singapore? a lot of their past attacks missed the target, and just got themselves fined for talking about nepotism, compliant courts etc

digging up some real dirt was not easy; they simply lacked the understanding

Sam said...

Yes, it is true that some foreign journals deserve what they get from our govt.

Besides, their reports about our country can be cursory or amateurish, except perhaps the Economist.

That too, is below our expectations.
The foreign journalists appear to be quite superficial and ignorant (or narrow) in their reports.

OF course, many of them are much better than our Straits Times.

As Jason correctly stated, I do not know why these foreign publications want to remain here in Singapore or have their offices here. Yes, Bangkok is a better place, esp when our country ranks so low in press freedom, happiness index, etc..
It is a reflection of their weak management and editorial boards.

The foreign publishers deserve what they get(the $ 200K deposit imposed on them together with other restrictions) if they do NOT practise by their own principles.

THEY HAD A CHOICE AND THEY CHOSE TO REMAIN HERE, EVEN IF THE POWER OF THE PRESS IS IMMENSE as mentioned above, especially in the light of major events coming up here. To me, some or most of them appear to be opportunistic and without principles.

Anonymous said...

sam before you blog please improve your english. you do not understand how the foreign press works, only the poor ST reports written by a bunch of governsment intelligence officers.

look at back edicions of the London Financial Times. They write solid meaningful material, that is if you can understand their english.

finally they do not really need to circulate in little singapore, their readership is too low to make it economical.

the guardian's tshe fiunanciala times etc will stick be writing their stinging articles. hoswever, the governsment wille happy because the singaporean does not read just what shitty publicity them country is getting abroad.

ah but i have forgotten the internet, until that is closed as well.

Matilah_Singapura said...

It'll be interesting to see how these publishers respond to the S'pore govt.

Anonymous said...

they will comply, and mouth platitudes like "our policy is to observe the law of the country we operate in"; by the same principle, yahoo in china handed over information about some bloggers to the government so that they could be caught

corporations exist to make money, not to advance ideology

Anonymous said...

The London Financial Times,Time Magazine, and Newsweek do not require singapore. the Island is a nonentity, the government should realise these magazines and newspaper have world standings.

The financial Review is monthly periodical unknown outside Asia.

The London Financial Times is the leading financial paper in the world, it has clout and can be extremely damaging, the editor will not take silly little singapores latest attack on foreign press sitting down, look out for fireworks.

Time and Newsweek will not bother to circulate.

Anonymous said...

ah..the sacked ST journalist moved to London..

Sam said...

Yes, my apologies for any bad English used above.

Yes, I concur with 'ANONYMOUS' and others that there are also other much better papers than the Straits Times (besides the Economist). I missed out the Financial Times of UK (another of my favourite) and others. So sorry!

Yes, it is left to be seen if these world famous papers uphold their principles and move out; or deserve what they get from our govt (with NO sympathies from us since they have a choice to move out and take the Internet route or remain put here and reduce their news credibility overnight).

il mango di Treviso said...

One gigantic leap backward for Singapore. An Orwellian society at its best!

I just returned from Chennai where the ban of the play of P. Elangovan was big news on the Indian press.
As a foreigner I am now seriously considering getting the hell out of this place.
Sad and sorry for all Singaporeans who have to put up with this bull shit.