Singapore has dropped 7 spots in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index to an all-time low of 158, down from 151 ranking in 2019.
The index, by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is a barometer that gives an annual ranking of countries based on the organisations assessment of the press freedom records of those countries which is based on several categories including media independence, legislative framework, abuses against the media/reporters, infrastructure and more.
Singapore has consistently ranked poorly on this index for the past few years, this time ranking lower than countries like Russia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
On its website, RSF noted that Singapore’s colour on the Index has changed to black which means that the situation here is classified as “very bad”. It explained, ” Despite the “Switzerland of the East” label often used in Singapore government propaganda, the city-state does not fall far short of China when it comes to suppressing media freedom.”
RSF continued, “Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government is always quick to sue critical journalists, or apply pressure to make them unemployable, or even force them to leave the country.”
Highlighting Infocomm Media Development Authority, RSF noted that it has the power to censor all forms of journalistic content. The section on Singapore also noted that defamation suits are “common” here and “may sometimes be accompanied by a charge of sedition which is punishable by up to 21 years in prison.”
“As a result of judicial and financial pressure from the authorities, self-censorship is widespread, including within the alternative independent media,” said RSF.
Of course, the organisation also highlighted the oft talked about anti-fake news law which was passed into law last year, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which “allows the government to act as a combination of Ministry of Truth and censorship office for the social media era, ordering both media outlets and digital platforms to post “corrections” to any content deemed “incorrect.””
Singapore’s neighbouring countries, Malaysia is ranked 101, an increase of 22 from its previous ranking and Indonesia at 119, an increase of 5 from its previous year’s ranking.