The Manila Times
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore delivered the keynote address at the opening of the Seventh Asian-European Editors’ Forum held in Sentosa, Singapore, on October 5 to 8.
Sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the annual forum bringing to Asia senior editors from Europe to discuss specific topics with their Asian peers and dialogue with Asian leaders.
The following excerpted from, Lee’s remarks about the “Role of Media” were the closing part of his speech which mainly covered the forum’s assigned theme “India-China-Japan: The New Power Triangle in Asia.” He tackled the various key challenges now confronting the Asian, particularly the Asean, countries and peoples.
The role of the media
Good government delivers economic growth and progress, and builds a resilient and inclusive society. Responsible journalism, which understands and furthers the larger national interest, supports both of these goals. Ultimately, both exist for the people they serve.
In every country, the media occupies a position of power and responsibility. It is the source of news and views, accessible to all. It informs, educates and entertains. It influences and shapes public opinion. However, the media operates differently across countries. In some, media players consciously seek to uphold their responsibility to society and further the broader national interest.[The prefered PAP interpretation of the owning all media outlets in Singapore, with all other interpretations classed as 'ideological', says more than I can possibly state here.] In others, the media reports and publishes stories based on what sells, or pushes particular ideological views, on the theory that the marketplace of ideas will automatically sort out the good from the bad.
The Western, particularly the American, model is an unfettered and rambunctious press, championing issues, competing to set the agenda, holding the elected government to account, and subject to minimal legal restraints.[Liberal?] In Asia, some countries approximate this Western model of the media more closely than others. But the countries which have been most successful at improving the lives of their people do not always have the most aggressive media. For example, the Japanese media are less adversarial, and put more emphasis on consensus building. Their approach is different from the Western one, but it suits Japan’s culture and circumstances and has contributed to Japan’s success.
As with the political system, each country will have to evolve its own model of the media that works for it. Here too the situation is dynamic, not least because the Internet is changing everything.
The Internet is enabling ordinary citizens to post news and views on the web, making information available more quickly and plentifully than ever. The conventional wisdom is that the free flow of information on the Internet is universally a good thing. It is undoubtedly very difficult to control information flow. But as we find terrorist groups using the Internet to plan murderous attacks, and pedophiles using it to prey on defenseless children, we are learning that while the Internet is a great boon to mankind, it is not an unmitigated one.
In the pre-Internet age, newspapers and television stations not only reported news and opinions, they also filtered, processed and verified the information, in order to present coherent perspectives which shape the public debate and the public’s collective understanding of the world around us. The Internet short-circuits and undercuts this model.
Even in the Internet age, there will still be a role for serious journalism, whether in print or on the web, because people will still seek out information sources which are reliable, verified and insightful. But it will not be easy to keep the public debate on this high plane, especially on controversial issues. For the Internet also enables clever propaganda, inflammatory opinions, half-truths and untruths to circulate freely and gain currency through viral distribution, and these are not always easily countered by rational refutation or factual explanation. How to deal with this is something, which every newspaper, and indeed every society, is grappling with.
Singapore regulates the Internet with a light touch. But the same laws of sedition and defamation apply whether on the Internet or in print, and we have prosecuted persons who have incited racial and religious hatred on blogs. The media in Singapore must adapt to these changes, do their best to stay relevant, and continue to contribute constructively to nation building.
"Guardians of Power ought to be required reading. It is the most important book about journalism I can remember."
"Regular analysis of the media has never been more important. Media Lens carries out this task with energy and care."
Anthony R. Dimaggio (USA)
This book parallels very closely in terms of its ideology other classic works of media criticism on corporations and corporate media, such as The Corporation (Joel Bakan) and Manufacturing Consent (Chomsky and Herman). But whereas Chomsky's work focused on American media, this work looks at the ways in which the "liberal" media in Britain works to reinforce corporate prestige, power, and government propaganda.
The book looks at a plethora of issues, such as media coverage of the Kyoto Protocol, the Kosovo bombing, Iraqi sanctions and the 2003 invasion, among other issues.
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