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Straits Times celebrates 50 years of PAP rule

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  • singaporerebel
    Only objective and factual political films please, we re Singaporeans Sunday, May 31, 2009 Straits Times celebrates 50 years of PAP
    Message 1 of 1 , May 31 4:22 PM
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      Only "objective" and "factual" political films please, we're Singaporeans

      Sunday, May 31, 2009

      Straits Times celebrates 50 years of PAP rule

      Saturday's edition of the Straits Times was a surreal one.

      Pages 2 and 3 of the main section was devoted to the paper's own defence against allegations of unfair coverage of the recent AWARE controversy. Its chief editor Han Fook Kwang wrote

      I stand by the professionalism of our reporters. The personal attacks against the integrity of our journalists sadden me because they show the vindictiveness of our critics and the length to which they are prepared to go to attack our professionalism. In fact, there appears to be an organised campaign to discredit the media, with mass e-mail being sent, including to Reach, the government feedback portal.

      The Straits Times has no hidden agenda to push this line or that, or to favour one group against another. On this story, as with others, we were driven by our desire to provide as much information to our readers as possible, in as timely a manner. That remains our primary objective.

      Click here to read full article.

      The date of the day's edition also happens to coincide with the 50th anniversary of People's Action Party's first electoral victory in 1959. So true to its role as a nation building press, the paper devoted a supplementary section, consisting of some 7 to 8 full pages, to the historic occasion. Nothing wrong with that per se, but the overall thrust of the writing is clear - to attribute the success of a half-century of economic transformation to the policies of the PAP. And to ensure that the messages hit home, pictures of a young Lee Kuan Yew spring-cleaning on the streets in the 1960s are juxtaposed with modern highrise public housing.

      Harder to swallow, however, are just how the paper conveniently whitewashed certain political truths to paint a simplistic triumph of the PAP over communists, such as

      Two mentions of Lim Chin Siong are prefixed with labels of "pro-Communist" and "hardliner". That new evidence unearthed from the record office in London casting doubts on the accusations of Lim and his Barisan comrades as communists gets no mention. See here and here.

      Operation Coldstore, which resulted in the detention-without-trial of opposition politicians, journalists, union and student leaders in 1963, gets a token mention.

      That the key leadership of the main opposition party Barisan Sosialis were detained without trial, some for as long as 20 years, is not mentioned. See here, here and here.

      That allegations of prison torture still persists to this day is not mentioned. See here, here and here.

      That the PAP, after assuming power, closed down newspapers, ban jukeboxes and shut down establishments that purveyed "yellow culture", also gets no mention. See here and here.

      You certainly won't see this kind of juxtaposition in the Straits Times.

      Lee Kuan Yew leading a march in 1959

      John Tan of the Singapore Democratic Party arrested in 2008

      While Mr Han Fook Kwang boldly defends himself and the "professionalism" of the Straits Times over allegations of unfair reporting on the affairs of a women's charity group, we can only hope that it is not lost on him that this same standard of "professionalism" should extend itself to coverage of ALL issues, including our political history.

      He should take good note of what his predecessor Leslie Hoffman said 50 years ago in an editorial entitled 'Threat to Freedom', written during the general elections when the PAP, led by Lee Kuan Yew, was lambasting the Straits Times for unfair coverage.

      Not for a hundred years has the freedom of the press in Singapore been in such danger as it is today. If the People's Action Party is in a position to form agovernment, one of its first concerns will be to bring the newspapers to heel. This is the only construction that can be placed on the statements of PAP leaders, includingits chairman [Dr Toh Chin Chye] and secretary general [Lee Kuan Yew]. If this conclusion is wrong, it is easy for PAP to say so. Its leaders need only affirm their respect for freedom of the press, their respect for the right to criticize, their respect indeed for the rights of all political opposition. they must not, however, qualify their affirmation with "buts". Like the individual, the press is either free or not free. It can comment and criticize, subject to the laws of defamation and libel, or it has no soul to
      call its own.

      A censored press remains bad even when it produces good things. A free press remains good even when it produces bad things... a eunuch remains a mutilated being even if he possesses a fine voice. A great Socialist said that - Karl Marx. It may be that PAP's spokesmen do not mean all they say, or that they intend to do all that they threaten. They have said some quite monstrous things, not only about the press, and are likely to go on saying them, partly no doubt because they believe threats sometimes work but also because a strong section of their following expect it of them. There is occasionally a conscious "bold bad boy" pose about PAP leaders, as noticeable as their undress uniform of tieless white shirt and trousers. It would be foolish and reckless, however, not to pay PAP's leaders the compliment of believing that their threats, particularly against the press, are meant to be taken seriously.

      It is ominous when the press is told, in an orgy of false witness by party leaders, that PAP believes in "objective reporting and the accurate dissemination of news." This has been the classic introduction to the repression of the press everywhere. Dictatorships, whether of the Left or the Right, begin their suppression of the truth by confining the press to what they call "the accurate dissemination of news." The papers then disseminate news as the party and its leaders instruct, or the press does not publish at all. It may seem fantastic that such a threat to freedom and liberty should confront Singapore in this day and age of political advance, but PAP's leaders have made it quite clear that they do not understand the fundamental principles of the freedom of the press. It follows that they do not understand the first principles of the liberty of the people.

      18 newspapers in 2009?

      And finally, this graphic - which compares the number of newspapers in 1959 against the number today. The list under 1959 is fairly accurate, notwithstanding that Singapore at that time was still under Emergency Rule and there were dozens of smaller newspapers published by political parties, trade union and universities.

      As for the number of newspapers in 2009, I leave it to you to figure where are these 18 newspapers.

      Newspapers in 1959

      1. Straits Times
      2. Singapore Free Press (shut down in same year after PAP came to power)
      3. Singapore Standard (shut down in same year after PAP came to power)
      4. Nanyang Siang Pau
      5. Sin Chew Jit Poh
      6. Utusan Melayu
      7. Berita Harian
      8. Tmail Murasu
      9. Kerala Bandhu (a Malayalam-language paper)

      Posted by Martyn See at 3:04 PM Coffee Shop Talk - Dear Singapore "Journalists" Subscribe From: a1zb2y 07:39 To: ALLDear Singapore "journalists",With the release of Reporters Without Borders' 2006 report on press freedom, I am sure you guys (and gals) are feeling rather low right now. Well, to be honest, you guys deserve to feel that way. Unless you don't.Once upon a time, the profession of a journalist was a respected one. One on which people depended to tell the truth about public affairs and public issues. While you may pat yourself on the back and adopt a self-congratulatory demeanour with all the in-house awards you have been getting (without any competition at all), the truth is that you are a condemned lot.Sure you can congratulate yourself in what may resemble sessions of self-masturbation of egos, you cannot escape from the fact that you are despised not only around the world but also in your own country. Perhaps especially in your own country.And sure again, you can blame the government and soothe your ego with blanket excuses like "I am just doing my job" or "I have a family to feed", the truth (again) is that you are solely responsible for the pathetic state that our media is in. Yes, each one of you. Each individual one of you.I used to sympathise and empathise with you lot, even giving you the benefit of the doubt. The machinery of the govt is overwhelming. The fear instilled in you is frightening. The consequences of being fair is apalling.Well, not anymore.Someone here called you people a disgrace. And indeed you are. All of you. A disgrace.A disgrace to your profession.A disgrace to your country.A disgrace to your own very self.The people looks to you for fair reports. The people looks to you to be humane in your reports. The people looks to you, above all, to tell the truth.You have failed in all counts.So, please do not play the victim. Most of all, please do not any longer pretend you are professionals. It is what you do from now on that will change our perception and perhaps regain whatever credibility you have left - if you have any at all left.Stop your self-masturbation, stop your cowardice, stop your vindictiveness. Stop your pretension. And most of all, stop giving yourself awards. It is a joke.Do yourself a favour and self-reflect - as an organisation, an institution and as individuals. For even though you may point the finger and ascribe blame to the organisation, you should not and must not forget that the organisation is made up of individuals like yourself, each one of you.The pathetic state of the media reflects the individual in it.Anyway, I know this message will do nothing to change whatever you do or how you do it. So, it makes no difference.My only hope is that you will realise what you are doing to my country - and the people of my country.
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