A former journalist in Singapore shared her reporting experience on Twitter, revealing some of her encounters with media censorship that happened in Mediacorp, the national public broadcaster.
“Only writing about things I’ve heard and experienced. First, at the old building in Caldecott, there was a censorship room. The door plate literally said ‘censorship’,” she wrote in a Twitter thread – which has since been deleted – on Wednesday (15 July).
According to her, journalists in Singapore who intend to do a vox pop – short interviews with members of the public – outside of Parliament would need to obtain permission from the Government in advance.
“I remember submitting info like my name, ID number, nationality and race with those from my crew,” said the former journalist.
She was also informed by a producer friend, who just got her Permanent Residence (PR) in Singapore, that journalists who are not Singapore citizens, including PR are not allowed to do coverage on the General Election (GE).
Other instances were when her TV script – which covered about Singapore’s athletes had to do crowdfunding themselves for the Olympics due to lack of Government support – was “ruthlessly edited” without her knowledge.
“Above was taken out only to be replaced w[ith] paragraphs of available gov[ernment] scholarships (mostly academic scholarships…),” she added.
Expressing her curiosity on the series of MRT incidents occurred in Singapore between 2017 and 2018 – including the train collision at Joo Koon MRT station on November 2017 which she claimed was called a “bump” by the state-media – she asked a former reporter at Mediacorp on why no media was looking into it.
But the response that she received was, “This is Singapore”.
The former journalist went on to share about the coverage on smart factories in Singapore which she was assigned to by her superior, claiming that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) had given four “options” and asked her to “let them know” the companies that she chose to cover beforehand.
“I got an email from MTI asking me if I’m interested in covering smart factories, which I ignored bc[because] I was working on other stories. My boss, usually terse on email, politely agreed. MTI gave me four ‘options’ – told me to choose two (or one) companies and LET THEM know,” the former journalist added.
The same thing happened when she called the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) to inquire about the ratio of Chinese and Malay officers in the Government.
“Idk[I don’t know] exactly what story I was working on but I got curious about the ratio of Chinese vs Malay gov [government] officers so I called the relevant gov comms. Got a call asking what my ‘agenda’ is,” she noted.
Although there are journalists in Singapore who are committed to “legit reporting”, the former journalist opined that it will still be difficult when high-level editors are being appointed from different ministries.
It is “not surprising” to find an editor-in-chief (EIC) at Mediacorp who listed out his “extensive Government relations experience” in the LinkedIn bio, she said.
One netizen – who happens to be a journalist – commented in the thread, saying that there are former officers of the Internal Security Department (ISD) who were appointed to be editors at the Straits Times’ (ST) political desk.
The netizen hinted that the editors would occasionally ask his colleagues “would this make the Government look silly?” on ostensibly non-political stories, which left them wondered if the editors had resigned from the ISD.
Referring to the comment, the former journalist said “To those who [are] not familiar w[ith] ISD (Internal Security Department) in Singapore. Think spy agency”.
Citing the ST’s article titled “HDB officer fined $2,000 for breaching Official Secrets Act by giving confidential info to ST journalist” which was published on 20 December 2017, she stated that the ST journalist’s phone was taken by the authorities without a warrant.
The former journalist was told by her friends – who are Singapore’s journalists – that a Government official went to have a meeting at ST office and display screenshots of the journalist’s private conversation with the HDB officer. She regarded it as a “very disturbing” story to hear.
“Yes, this is why NYT[New York Times] didn’t relocate their digital team to Singapore. It’s a business-friendly place, not for media,” she asserted.