Press Gang: To publish or not to publish, the internal struggles of news outlets in Singapore

A minister is being asked if adultery should be made illegal by a member of the audience during a Q & A session and everyone in the hall laughed in spite of trying to hold it in.

The person who posed the question, noted that since molestation to humans and cruelty to animals are considered illegal, so why adultery is not a criminal offense.

This question might seem an understandable one but if you consider that the person being asked is the Minister of Law and Home Affairs, K Shanmugam, the minister who grilled historian Thum Ping Tjin for six hours, and target of rumors surrounding his private life.

In response to the question at the event organised by the Association of Muslim Lawyers on Friday (13 July) evening, the Minister calmly said that if the society by-large thinks that adultery should be deemed illegal, the government will look into the matter (not the full reply but the main point).

Now turning to Straits Times’ 417-words report of the event, there is simply no mention of this occurrence. And neither is there mention of another question that was posed to the Minister about whether the impending amendment to the law contains protection for the intellectually disabled accused and the Minister said there is no plan do so but there are already some measures in place. such as training the police to spot such individuals and have others to sit in during the interview.

Lawyers stood up, using their personal experience to question the decision of not doing so, such as noting one case where 3 investigating officers took a client’s statement without noting that he can’t even read. When the one of the lawyers wanted to continue with his question, the President of AML stopped him from going further.

One would suppose the above should be highlighted by the news but also recognise its political sensitivity.

Now, you may be wondering why this is titled with the review of WildRice’s world premiere show, “Press Gang” that is showing at LASALLE College of the Arts.

This is because the above mentioned is exactly the kind of editorial decision portrayed as the simple premise of the screenplay where a fictional newspaper “Singapore Times” has to decide whether a story makes it to its papers.

When stakes are high, particularly for the editors who oversee the reporters and act as the gatekeepers for stories that might be negative for the establishment, stories are edited drastically or trashed completely.

The show does not vilify local mainstream journalists for the way they behave or write their stories but to present a fair and humanised look at the circumstances that they are in. Inspiring young journalists who wish to put their skills into practical work but hampered by the powers that be, forcing them to make the eventual choice of giving in to the system or to leave it completely.

I personally find the lines written for the characters, are somewhat poetic in a Shakespearean manner, but even so, there is no lack of humor with the recent references to the political scene in Singapore and quirky behaviors of certain roles in the show (though I never understood what the plot of the office romance was meant to convey).

The portrayal of the independent news outlet in the show might not be so accurate because real independent news outlets in Singapore simply do not have the money to hire journalists from mainstream media, so journalists who are fed up with the system tend to shift over to Public Relations or move out of the country.

What might be lacking for the otherwise-marvelous show, is the answer that some audience are looking for; as to what can they do to change the situation that they knew. way before they watched this show.

Can they speak with their Member of Parliament, or must the ruling People’s Action Party be voted out? Questions linger as the show reminds the audience with an uncomfortable fact of life in Singapore with no solution in sight, but perhaps that is the kind of feeling that the show is meant to deliver to its audience. To feel, to think and possibly, to act.

The show will be showing for another two more days till tomorrow evening. So if you can, make it for the show!

Written By: Tan Tarn How
Directed By: Ivan Heng
Starring: Benjamin Chow / Shane Mardjuki / Oniatta Effendi / Rei Poh / T. Sasitharan / Amanda Tee / Yap Yi Kai

Remaining shows:

14/7 (SAT): 3pm and 7.30pm
15/7 (SUN): 3pm and 7.30pm

Tickets can be purchased at the SISTIC’s website.

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