Independent Government mouthpiece?

“We want to make sure that the Press is, and is seen as, independent of the influence of Government.”

Lui Tuck Yew, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts

“It (Singapore press) should not join the political fray and become a political actor.”

K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

“We’re aware people say we’re a government mouthpiece or that we are biased.”

Han Fook Kwang, Straits Time Chief Editor, acknowledging the existence of strong criticisms of Straits Times’ objectivity.

“Freedom of the press, freedom of the news media, must be subordinated to the overriding needs of singapore and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government.”

Lee Kuan Yew at the International Press Institute’s annual assembly in Helsinki in 1971.


From The Media Enthralled, by Francis Seow, former solicitor-general and president of the Law Society:

On March 26, 1981, the NPPA (Newspapers and Printing Presses Act), 1974, was amended to prohibit a person from “owning either directly or indirectly through his nominees more than 3 per cent of the ordinary shares issued by a newspaper company without having obtained the prior approval of the minister, who may grant approval on conditions.” The approval, however, could be revoked at any time. Writing on the effects of the amendments, Peter Lim, editor-in-chief of the Straits Times group of newspaper, said:

We all work under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, which exercises control by requiring newspapers, publishers, printers and chief editors to be licensed.

There is an additional, reserve power. Newspaper companies must issue management shares but only to those with government permission to hold them. These shares have 100 [sic] times the voting power of ordinary shares in any resolution to appoint or dismiss any director or staffer.

The effect is that the government can put anyone into or remove anyone from any position in a newspaper company. The reality is that the reserve power has never been exercised; the reality is that there is probably no need to, because of the influence and record of the government.

Whatever the Singapore journalist’s dreams, he cannot afford to forget this reality.

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