Tuesday, 6 May 2014

World Press Freedom Day 2014


In its latest media freedom ranking, Freedom House has ranked Singapore as 152nd and said that overall, the world is worse off in terms of press freedom. It explained that global media freedom is now at the lowest point in the last decade.

Freedom house is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that supports democratic change, monitors freedom, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

It analysed the media situation in 197 countries throughout 2013 and found that they could categorise them into three broad categories of free, partly free and not free. Singapore, with rank 152 was in the not free category.

SG ranks 152nd in Freedom of the Press ranking

Freedom House released its annual Freedom of the Press 2014 report [Link] on 1 May. Their findings paint a grim picture of the state of global media freedom, with just 14% of the world’s population enjoying a vibrant press with diverse views and minimal state intrusion:
Percent of world’s population living in societies with Free media in 2013: 14%
Percent of world’s population living in societies with Not Free media in 2013: 44%
China’s share of those living in Not Free media environments: 43%
Of the 197 countries and territories assessed in 2013, a total of:
63 (32%) were rated Free
68 (35%) were rated Partly Free
66 (33%) were rated Not Free
The 3 highest-ranking countries are Netherlands, Norway and Sweden while the 3 lowest-ranking countries are North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Singapore is ranked 152 globally [Link]. Last year, it was ranked 153 and the year before 150. The report classified Singapore’s level of press freedom as “Not Free”.

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Today is World Press Freedom Day: an opportunity to reflect upon the principles of press freedom. Press freedom must be championed and protected as it comprises the fundamental Freedom of Expression (Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights). UNESCO's 2008 themes for this day are Access to Information and Empowerment.

The Newspapers and Printing Presses Act was introduced in 1975. In effect, the Act enables the State to impose such restrictions as:
• Permits (to be renewed every year) granted on a discretionary basis for locally published newspapers. In addition, these permits may be granted with conditions such as the State's specification on the language in which the newspaper may be published.
• Permits required for the sale and distribution of foreign newspapers. In addition, individuals will need to comply with this permissibility for any papers brought in which may be for personal consumption. Complementary provision for powers of examination of packages and articles is included.
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World Press Freedom Day is traditionally a time to remember journalists who have suffered or died in the line of duty. By that measure, journalists and other writers in Singapore have it lucky, for they do not face risks anywhere comparable to what their peers have to endure in some other countries. On the contrary, this is an environment that is comfortable and convenient for media, both at the corporate and individual level.

But while restrictions are not life-threatening, they are stifling enough to result in muted and shallow public debates of important issues. Let me just highlight three of the most damaging of these restrictions.

First, we are the only developed country, and among a minority of countries in Asia, where you need the permission of the executive branch of government to publish a newspaper. Such paternalistic instincts are inching into internet regulation, and may colour the expected amendments to the Broadcasting Act this year.

Cherian George article on SG media restriction

Excellent article by Cherian George. Exactly how I feel about the media here but could not put it as well as him.

Exactly why did he fail to get tenure at NTU? I am not friends with Cherian George although I know people who knows him. Something like this you need to get it from the horse's mouth.

For now the greatest loss are the students who wouldn't have the opportunity to learn under him.

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LKY and a fly

So when researcher Cherian George says how media restrictions are beginning to work against the PAP, we need to also ask: What are the editors doing about these restrictions? Are they trying to convince the government that these restrictions can only mean the failure of journalism and their companies?

The writing is already on the wall with SPH’s advertising revenue, the life blood of any media company, declining by $11. 8 million in the last quarter.

Journalism standards are slipping. The language has become ponderous, the angling old-fashioned and the choice of stories predictable.