Singapore Media Festival looks to boost media talents while Singapore dumbing down its own talents

It is with a touch of irony when I read about the Singapore Media Festival (SMF) looking for new ways to boost Asia’s creative talent in media. While I have no doubt that the SMF will be an excellent forum for showcasing talent, it is important to remember that we do have many skilled talents in Singapore whose creativity have been stymied because of the subject matter that they have chosen to portray were deemed unsuitable to the Media Development Board (MDA)

Remember the controversy that was generated by filmmaker Tan Pin Pin’s film, To Singapore with Love? The film documents various Singaporeans who have had to leave Singapore for political reasons. It charts their lives and allows those interviewed to tell their story in their own words. It did not preach a particular point of view. Yet, this film was banned in Singapore in a way that definitely did not support her creative talents.

What about Singapore’s dismal ranking on the 2018 Word Press Freedom Index? We fare pretty well from bottom up at position 151. How can we be serious about nurturing the media industry if we do not give our own budding talents a chance to flex their freedom of expression and speech?

Further, let’s not forget how the National Arts Council removed funding for award winning cartoonist Sonny Liew’s graphic novel “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye”. Our very own Minister for Law, Mr K Shanugam had publicly praised Liew as a “talent“. Yet again, this is a talent that is not being supported by Singapore.

There’s also the Select Committee on Fake New’s spectacular rejection of the views of historian Thum Ping Tjin. Not only did the Select Committee disregard Dr. Thum. it actually took concerted action to discredit Dr. Thum.

I can go on and on with the list of talented people that have not been supported by their own country but I think the readers get my drift. Singapore appears committed to nurturing media talent in Singapore. Yet by the same vein, it limits and curtails talents because of differences in creative direction. At the end of the day, creativity is inspired by different events. It seems disingenuous to pledge commitment but yet cherry pick.

I understand that there is a need to ensure that works which promote or incite violence need to be regulated. However, none of the above examples have been works that incite or promote violence. Arguably, they were deemed offensive to the authorities because they presented a view point that differed from the view point presented by the ruling government.

If Minister Chan Chun Sing considers Workers’ Party politicians disingenuous for taking up NCMP positions despite their objections to the scheme, it is even more disingenuous for Singapore to say it is supporting media talent but yet suppress those same talents for having a different view.