One 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.”