US-based NGO Freedom House put Singapore on a score of 41 on its freedom with 0 being the best and 100 being the worst. Freedom House highlighted the following key developments of Singapore’s freedom from June 2014 to May 2015:
- Shut down of The Real Singapore in May
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s defamation lawsuit against CPF blogger Roy Ngerng
- Jailing of 16 year old teenager Amos Yee for online tirade against Lee Kuan Yew
- New anti-harassment law to protect government itself and prosecute critics
- S$8,000 fine of blogger Alex Au over contempt of court
In its report, Freedom House noted that the ruling party PAP increased prosecutions and took more actions against dissent before the General Election in September:
“In 2015, the SPH-owned national daily Straits Times deleted an online report quoting a cabinet minister, apparently because his comments were backfiring on the government. MediaCorp’s Channel NewsAsia online portal deleted a report on a public forum after a junior minister’s answer to a question about national servicemen’s pay proved controversial. What was striking about these two cases is that they went beyond the expected downplaying of dissenting views, and involved manipulation of factual news reports on officials’ own public statements. This may be indicative of the extreme sensitivity to potential controversies in the run-up to the late 2015 election.”
Singapore also suffered a blow in media freedom due to the 2013’s ruling that require websites to put up a S$50,000 “performance bond” and subject themselves to government censorships.
Writers in Singapore have also publicly acknowledged that they removed critical content when they were threatened with criminal prosecutions or defamation suits by the PAP government.
Freedom House also pointed out the lack of credibility and independence in Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp:
“MediaCorp is 80 percent government-owned, with SPH holding the remaining 20 percent. SPH is a listed company, but through the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, the government can nominate individuals to its board of directors. Since the 1980s, every SPH chairman has been a former cabinet minister. The government is known to have a say in the appointment of chief executives and chief editors. It also wields significant powers of patronage. Compared with authoritarian regimes that are more fractured and offer alternative sources of elite support, power and influence in Singapore are unusually centralized within the PAP’s top echelons.”
The Media Development Authority was also slammed for developing Singapore’s media backwards by demanding that non-government websites submt detailed personal information about its owner, editorial team, and source of funds, including the names and national identity card numbers of individual funders.
Singaporeans do not have alternative websites because non-government ones are also not profitable enough to generate income worthy of original reporting and commentary on a daily basis. As a result of the PAP government heavy-handed interference, under-funding and lack of manpower are the sole reasons behind the lack of growth in alternative websites in Singapore.
You may read the rest of the report from here.