Only it does not have the freedom to spread lies and hate
Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who had his final journey through the country he helped build today, was often accused of muzzling the media, stifling the opposition and depriving the people of civil liberties.
Today’s edition of The Straits Times has a piece by its Editor-in-Chief, Patrick Daniel, that puts the media scene here in the right perspective.
Mr Daniel recalls: “Mr Lee knew too well the power a press baron could wield to make or break an elected government, and he was determined to have none of it in Singapore.”
The West generally gets it wrong when it comes to reporting on Asia and its people. The Reporters Without Borders group puts Singapore at number 150 in terms of media freedom, as Mr Daniel points out. Even Russia is ranked better than Singapore. The country sits with the likes of Libya where journalists are routinely killed.
Has any journalist lost his life in Singapore? At worst, there have been some journalists and publications brought to justice for inaccurate reporting,
Mr Daniel writes: “Mr Lee made sure that political leaders are never beholden to unelected media owners, and wanted the media out of the political process. Foreign colleagues who have worked for capricious owners tell me how smart a move this was.”
When the media and misguided elements behave irresponsibly they will need to be restrained in the interest of the nation. Every sane country will do that or will need to do that.
Mr Daniel was once hauled up for publishing the Government’s flash estimate of quarterly economic growth ahead of its official release.
Singapore is free, peaceful, prosperous and commands the respect of major global powers. That is why political biggies from all over the world became Mr Lee’s close personal friends, including Mr Henry Kissinger. He and several others, including Bill Clinton, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Park Guen-Hye, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China Vice-President Li Yuanchao, were at the funeral today.
Still the media, particularly the Western media,continuously attempts to run down Singapore by saying that all progress the country achieved was at the expense of civil liberties, media rights and the opposition.
I enjoy every right in the world to express my opinion on any issue and that may be critical of some of the government’s policies. I have consistently come down heavily on the government with no backlash or fear of reprisals. That is because I do not make sweeping allegations or try to propagate hate.
The Rights that Singapore Does Not Have!
Some of the freedoms that Singaporeans do not have are:
- the right to make wild allegations against people without any shred of evidence
- the right to be a traitor by letting Singapore down on international platforms – by spreading lies that the West is quick to lap up. Why will the Westen media care about whether Singapore succeeds or not as all they want is to enjoy proximity to the leadership, slam them on a daily basis and prevent a tiny Asian country from becoming a mega power.
- the right to defame people and spread hate, religious or racist
- the right to call all and sundry corrupt, criminal and more and still not be called upon to substantiate that
Do you think we need all of those?
Imagine what will be in store for the country if it was soft with all of the above. Worse, imagine, if Lee Kuan Yew had given the media and the opposition a free rein in 1965 what will have become of Singapore.
China is today an economic superpower because some of the freedoms the West has are curtailed there. In contrast, India has all of the freedoms that China has but remains a poverty-ridden country despite having all the advantages that the communist nation does not have (free speech and a large English-speaking young middle class, for instance).
Now that Singapore is a First World nation with a well-educated population, there is room for relaxing some of the curbs without going overboard. The world knows the kind of harm the Internet can do by spreading racial venom, something that can easily lead to turmoil and upset the very fabric of the nation.
G Joslin Vethakumar