In a Today report dated 29 September, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was quoted saying that the mainstream media in Singapore is not a free-for-all, neither is it the heavily-controlled media that some critics caricature it to be.
DPM Tharman wrote on his Facebook page that media in Singapore does not wait around for instructions, and it does not excuse everything government does.
"The mainstream media is what I regard as serious-minded, responsible players in an evolving Singapore democracy - helping to take it forward, but airing views in a way that avoids fragmenting society," he stressed.
According to the Minister, it is not an easy responsibility, because the ability of the media to divide people is a risk everywhere.
"In my opinion our media does a better job at advancing the collective interests of Singaporeans than that in several other Asian countries, where the media has added to a divisiveness in society not seen in a long time," he stated.
He then added that even in some of the mature western democracies, people are segregating themselves into media bubbles of their own - both in the mainstream and social media - and public trust in the media is now at an all-time low.
"These are not the things that Reporters Without Borders looks at, but they matter to the quality of democracy in any society, and are worrying many others," he stressed.
The last point is that the mainstream media carries all the important news of the day, including both sides of the political debate. While, Singaporeans pick it up.
"As I said at NTU, “they know some things are more likely to come up on page four than on page one” but they read things and discuss them freely. So blaming the mainstream media for electoral losses is not a good strategy - it doesn’t square anymore with the reality of a public that reads, follows issues and thinks more critically," he wrote.
"We should keep this going - the mainstream media as responsible players in our democracy, helping to move it forward. We should hope too that the middle in the social media gets stronger, for Singapore’s good," DPM Tharman ended.
Many of the commenters criticized his statement defending the local media, saying that they really know the truth, despite what he stated.
Jason Lee wrote, "This kind of speech works during LKY time when the majority of the population isn't that educated.
How many people buy that argument now?"
Curio WS Chan wrote, ""..Reporters Without Borders 2017 World Press Freedom Index, which ranked Singapore 151st out of 180 countries". - that speaks volume about our mainstream media. I look forward to the day when there is fair and balance reporting."
Ramos Maria wrote, "The media is a government newsletter that from time to time will pass news that makes you think otherwise. When Robert Palmer slept around, the media was rather silent. When a WP MP did the same, all hell broke loose. The is bias. They continually fail in international ranking for press freedom. Who are you kidding, Tharman? A lie repeated a million times can make people believe it is the truth."
Freddie Seah wrote, "This guy is always sitting on the fence. Dare not take a position. Dont see him as PM material. Too wishy washy."
Angeline Lee wrote, "Is that supposed to persuade the general population that msm does not deserve that 154th ranking or help save a sinking ship and the hopeless general at the helm of SS SPH?"
Barry Smith wrote, "If by mainstream media you mean globally then yes I agree, if you mean local media then I'm sorry I will have to disagree. None of our local media questioned the need for a racist presidential election at least to the best of my knowledge, and silence on such issues is just as bad. For the most part our local media simple says what is happening without giving any commentary on the issue or talking a stand."
Ray Hayes wrote, "This probably a small dent to your political capital. Were you muffled by your Chinese-Chauvinist colleagues and master?"
Eugene Tavano wrote, "Another play-act for dummies! Press doesn't need to wait. It's editorial management are like the 'selected president'"
Ho Yee Fook wrote, "Media does not need verbal instruction. But, they know what to do. Cantonese saying draw a picture need not reveal the intestine. You should know."
Jas Ng wrote, "Whether is it controlled, we know by ourselves. There is not a need for you to clarify."
Reginald Ashton wrote, "If you’re ranked 150+ in a global news survey, you can be pretty sure mainstream media here is extremely, biasly skewed."
Richard Adhikari wrote, "Really? I have been a journalist for decades now, and began in Singapore and can tell you that this guy is flat-out lying."
Jeff Ho wrote, "In Singapore, "mainstream media" is really a moniker for SPH of which Temasek and GIC are controlling shareholders. But of course there is no government interference."
Michael Ng wrote, "Can't rise to the occasion to state his own truthful position. Still very much a shadow of LHL. What a waste for a talented guy like him!"
Darren Tay wrote, "The more Tharman Shanmugaratnam try to clarify, the more guilty media looks."
长宁 wrote, "Say what you want. What is important is how many people will believe you. In the present political environment, more and more people decline to trust the PAP because of their frequent ungentleman approaches towards their political opponents."
Cheyenne Cherokee Sioux wrote, "If the mainstream media is a responsible player, why do they produce fake news on MRT delays, the attendance in the recent silent sit in protest in HLP on the REP n as responsible player, how is it they are ranked so lowly as 151 in the World Press Freedom ranking ? Mr. Tharman, once upon a time, you were held in high esteem by a good percentage of the population but, lamentably not any more, with your recent flip flopping."
Dolly Peh wrote, "Tharman, don't you think it is about time to have live telecast debate for every PE & GE, so that the voters can decide wisely, because for the past decades the MSM is still under the government and I believe it favours the PAP ? Am I right?"
Henryace Ace wrote, "Dear Tharman,
Pigs would be flying if the Government does not tightly control the media! You can't deny the clear and obvious. For eg., The Straits Times is almost like a PAP newsletter"
SY Kong wrote, "Say whatever, but all SPH's top management are PAP cronies. Why? Tharman claimed MSM are responsible player. Responsible to who and responsible to what? Still think Singaporeans are daft?"