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"News Consumption Survey" commissioned by the Ministry of Information and Communication (MCI). Source: Ervin Tan/Facebook

Lawyer reveals “News Consumption Survey” commissioned by MCI containing potentially politically-linked questions

A recent "News Consumption Survey" commissioned by the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) was found to contain questions with possible political nuances such as "Is Singapore headed in the right direction?" and "Is the Prime Minister doing a good job?".

Ervin Tan, who formerly represented Amos Yee as the latter's defence lawyer, revealed in his Facebook post on Thursday (1 Nov) that he "was recently asked to complete a survey by a person engaged by RySense Ltd, which was in turn commissioned by MCI."

He added that the survey was purportedly a "News Consumption Survey".

Among the questions, Mr Tan was required to answer were those related to "newspaper reading [habits], radio-listening habits, and social media habits," which include the "source" of news and the "frequency of consumption" of said news source.

Additionally, Mr Tan said that the survey also probed respondents' thoughts regarding "the reliability of the sources of news" of their choice, before it "segued predictably into a very short segment on fake news" and whether respondents are able to discern fake news when presented with such news.

"Rather intriguingly," he said, at the end of the survey, he was "asked (among other questions), on a scale of one to ten (being strongly disagree or strongly agree)" the following questions:

Is Singapore headed in the right direction?

Is the Prime Minister doing a good job?

Mr Tan argued that "these questions were not relevant to news consumption," and that even "the person administering the survey did not deny this."

Despite that, the surveyor assured Mr Tan that his responses will remain private and confidential.

Apparently unsure of the motive of the survey, Mr Tan asked to take a photo of these questions, which was "refused" by the surveyor.

However, he noted that the surveyor consented when he had "asked to take a photo of the letter of authorisation" instead.

Mr Tan also highlighted that he was given "a $10 NTUC Voucher" for completing the survey.

"I was told this is given to all survey participants and was thanked for my time," said Mr Tan, adding: "I will be donating a cash equivalent of the voucher - and then some - to HOME: Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, which good work is often obstructed by systemic barriers."

What Mr Tan experienced is not new, in recent months, members of public have shared with TOC that they had been visited or called by surveyors to seek their feedback on issues which included their perception of the current government.

TOC's chief editor, Terry Xu had earlier shared his experience in April this year about a call he got about the performance of the Singapore government.

As the next General Election, which is said to be held next year, draws closer, it is likely that more of such surveys will be conducted to allow the PAP government to understand the ground sentiment so as to craft their manifesto.