Singapore shortens leash on foreign newspapers

alerts-button-1.jpgOne month ahead of an IMF-WB meeting in Singapore, the city-state’s government has imposed more controls on foreign companies publishing newspapers and magazines in the country. Singapore’s government said it will reclassify the Far Eastern Economic Review under more stringent categories for foreign publications, and also lift exemptions on legal representation and publishing bonds granted to four other international media — the International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Newsweek and TIME Magazine. This means that the publications will soon be required to post S$200,000 for the privilege of publishing and distributing in the country, and to hire their own legal representation to continue operating in Singapore — two mechanisms that institutionalize vulnerabilities for the publications.

The announcement of revised rules for the foreign media further restricts the flow of information in an already constricted environment. Singapore is ranked by Committee to Protect Journalists, Freedom House, and Reporters Sans Frontiers as one of the worst nations in terms of press freedom.

Singapore’s overall media environment is dominated and virtually monopolized by the state. A burgeoning community of independent bloggers have been warned against poltical postings. Oppositionists have been bankrupted by crippling defamation cases instigated by Singaporean leaders. (One such politician — Dr. Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party, was the subject of a recent profile published by FEER.) The latest move against the international publications thus impacts on a crucial — if long-vulnerable — medium for independent news and information coming out of the city-state.

“These newspapers now regularly report on political issues in the region and Singapore and have significant circulations in Singapore,” the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts (MICA) said on Thursday.

MICA said the press act “serves to reinforce the government’s consistent position that it is a privilege, and not a right, for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore.

“They do so as foreign observers of the local scene and should not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore.”

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2 Responses to Singapore shortens leash on foreign newspapers

  1. […] Singapore has put in place many restrictions to covering and taking part in the IMF-WB meetings set to take place in the city-state this week. Civil society representatives must contend with strict rules for assembly, and many NGO reps have been blocked from even entering the country, to the dismay of the IMF-WB officials themselves. In the months prior, meanwhile, Singapore put foreign media operating in the city-state on a short leash, and advised bloggers to be on their best behaviour. Last September 6, SEAPA invited Singapore bloggers Alex Au and Gayle Goh to Bangkok to speak on the media and free expression environment in their country — or the lack thereof. Alex’s talk is available on his blog, here. Gayle, meanwhile, expresses her disgust at how the entire IMF-WB preparations are being handled. […]

  2. […] Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, have filed a defamation suit against the publisher and editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, just two days after winning another libel case against democrat oppositionist Chee Soon Juan. Citing court records, Reuters is reporting that the powerful Lees — notorious for their intolerance of criticism and for keeping international media on a short leash in the city-state — filed the libel suit against Hong Kong-based Review Publishing Company Ltd and FEER editor Hugo Restall on Aug. 22 for an article published in July on opposition politician Chee Soon Juan. The article — titled, ‘Singapore’s Martyr: Chee Soon Juan’ — “criticised the Singapore government’s handling of a pay-and-perks scandal at the country’s largest charity,” Reuters says. Meanwhile, Chee himself on September 12 was found guilty of defaming the Singaporean leaders. The leader of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)–like FEER–is no stranger to defamation suits in Singapore. He was found guilty of defamation in 2001 for comments against Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong as he campaigned for a seat in parliament. Earlier this year he was declared bankrupt and effectively suspended from politics for his inability to pay around US$300,000 in damages to the two leaders. On Tuesday, Singapore’s High Court ruled that Chee and his sister had defamed the Lees in yet another incident. No damages have yet been set for this separate case. […]

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