Wandering China

An East/West pulse of China's fourth rise from down under.

Singapore falls to record-low place in press freedom ranking [YahooNews Singapore] #Singapore #PressFreedom

Charging ahead with a knowledge economy mindset since the 1980s, Singapore today as a result has a relatively small digital divide despite widening income disparity. Media literacy, like most human resource checkboxes is critical to thrive in an island with its one truly viable resource – a well-trained, compliant, union action-free workforce.

Mainstream media unsurprisingly remains under the control of the one-party state. Its traditional media channels digitized as soon as the World Wide Web emerged and today Singapore leads international e-government rankings. It has thus far managed to largely keep public opinion under control – by either engaging alternative voices in public forums and online, or by enforcement of policy, making very public examples of those who cross – moving goalposts, a complex ruling party characteristic of rule. That satire could be punished, as the article reports is indicative.

Recent years have seen growing use of online platforms for public discourse enabled by Web 2.0. Some of described this as a great politicisation of a once ambivalent electorate that felt so threatened or swayed by dominant discourse in the past it was largely inert. Internet penetration was 75% back in June 2012. The island has also seen a growing free wireless network.

This space for public opinion online has been redefining the contours, peripheries and centre of gravity of public discourse in the island state known for its imagined, self-regulating out-of-boundary markers.

Much has changed this year. Depending on who you read, between two to five thousand attended physical public protests organized via social media and political blogs in the first half of 2013.

This had marked a change in course, of former ambivalence – to signs of fledgling activism.

The first strike in living memory caused by inter cultural incomprehension between Singaporean Chinese who identify more with Straits culture, and freshly imported mainland Chinese labour-intensive workers. There is no petition system there like the Chinese do.

Yet, its press rankings remain poor. Perhaps, the rankings disregard and do not give enough respect that Web 2.0 is beginning to democratize public opinion participation in the island state at a significant rate.

That it is an information society already savvy in digital communications is an important consideration. In the last election the ruling party garnered 60% of the popular vote to return more than 90% of the seats. Perhaps caused by such insurmountable odds, what was confined. The odd election fervor and coffee shop talk has transformed many into active citizenry. Could this be an anticipated side effect of its Intelligent Nation 2015 master plan?

In TV talk, Will this be a pilot episode that fizzles out as the dominant narrative attempts to pervade digital communication?

Or, can it build on this momentum demonstrative of an increasingly aware, participative and activist electorate to truly give it real world leverage. An emergence of a public sphere 2.0, in the works.

If this is the case, what does it mean for Chinese public diplomacy? Will its existing means continue to work or will it have it shift its efforts? Additionally, what can China learn from Singapore’s lessons on press control?

– – –

Singapore falls to record-low place in press freedom ranking –
By Shah Salimat
Source – Yahoo! News Singapore, published May 4, 2013

Singapore fell 14 places to a record 149th position in terms of press freedom, according to an annual report by non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

Coming ahead of World Press Freedom Day, which was observed Friday, the report showed this is the city-state’s worst performance since the index was established in 2002.

On the list, Singapore is wedged in between Russia and Iraq, with Myanmar just two places behind. The former junta-led country jumped up 18 spots in this year’s ranking.

Neighbouring Malaysia dropped 23 places to 145th over repeated censorship efforts and a crackdown on the Bersih 3.0 protest in April. Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea stayed at the bottom three, while Finland stayed on top of the list followed by the Netherlands and Norway.

Please click here to read full article at Yahoo.

Mali was the biggest jumper, moving 74 spots down amid a military coup and subsequent media bias. Malawi was the biggest riser, moving 71 spots up, after an end to the Mutharika dictatorship marked by excesses and violence.

In this year’s Freedom of The Press report published Wednesday by Freedom House, Singapore’s press was rated “Not Free” and was ranked 153rd in the world, tied with Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar. Norway and Sweden tied for tops, while North Korea and Turkmenistan tied for the bottom two.

Both reports come amid recent events that have rocked the media industry in Singapore. Outspoken academic Cherian George, who has called for more press freedom in the city-state, was denied tenure at Nanyang Technological University, sparking outrage among academics, colleagues and students.

Last month, comics artist Leslie Chew was arrested for alleged sedition, with charges relating to two comic strips, including one that contained the words “Malay population… Deliberately suppressed by a racist government.”

Filmmaker Lynn Lee was questioned for two videos she posted in January this year of interviews with former Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) bus drivers He Jun Ling and Liu Xiang Ying. Both drivers alleged police abuse while they were held in custody.

Amid the continued rise of new media in Singapore, there have been several instances over the past year of letters of demand being sent to bloggers and online media commentators to apologise and take down remarks that allegedly defamed government officials or the courts.

Earlier this year, blogger Alex Au received a letter of demand from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s lawyer that prompted the writer to apologise and take down an article and 21 comments regarding the sale of software by town councils to a firm owned by the ruling People’s Action Party.

The Real Singapore, a user-generated content website, was also asked twice to post an apology over comments allegedly defaming Defence Minister Ng Eng Hean.

The Attorney General’s Chambers also asked the website to post an apology for comments made by users over the case of China national Yuan Zhenghua, who was sentenced to 25 months jail for stealing a taxi and killing a cleaner at Changi Airport’s Budget terminal. The site has refused to put up the apology.


Filed under: Beijing Consensus, Censorship, Charm Offensive, Chinese Model, Chinese overseas, Communications, Education, Government & Policy, Human Rights, Ideology, Influence, International Relations, Mapping Feelings, Media, Overseas Chinese, Politics, Public Diplomacy, Singapore, Social, Strategy, The Chinese Identity

One Response

  1. Godfree says:

    RWB is a highly politicized body with little credibility, another version of Soros’ stable of fundamentalist NGOs.
    Why should ANYONE be allowed to defame their democratically-elected government? Or an officer of that government?
    Look at the difference in tone and performance between Australia’s government — being defamed and mauled daily by sociopathic press barons — and the government of resourceless Singapore. More interestingly, look at the vigor and profitability of the media in the two countries. Singapore’s is thriving and its credibility remains strong (hint: they tell the truth because they have to). Australia’s is dying.

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