Photo of elderly Singaporean with Lee Hsien Loong portrait

There have been a number of headlines many Singaporeans wish were fake news, here is a list of the top 10 most commented on:

1) GST increase, Carbon Tax, 30% water price increase and fare hike
2) Government to lethally shoot protesters, ban media
3) Male police officers allowed to strip search women
4) 5 Ministers wrongly accused MP Sylvia Lim of floating “test balloons” on GST
5) Law Minister K Shanmugam losing a debate to Facebook executive Simon Milner
6) Singapore is most expensive city in the world
7) Lee Hsien Loong’s Ang Mo Kio GRC Town Council is corrupted
8) Terminal 5 have no budget and it costs more than S$12 billion
9) Poverty in Singapore reached worst-ever
10) Halimah Yacob is an Indian, certified a Malay and became President through walkover

The Singapore government will soon be censoring the internet in the name of “fake news” once the Select Committee’s “public consultation” is over. With Law Minister K Shanmugam clearly sitting in the committee with his biases and refusing to accept any form of rejection, the outcome is pretty much pre-determined: more censorship of bad news.

The state media would be allowed to continue their propaganda news, and even when they indeed published fake news, the police is not taking any action. The Singapore dictatorship believes that when the citizens are denied access to independent news reports and their rights to criticise, the trust in government would return and the ruling party would continue to be in power – like the good old pre-Internet age. Would that happen?

Let me paraphrase my question: supposed Singaporeans today have only Straits Times, could they unlearn what they have already read on States Times Review? As the famous saying goes, the mind when expanded can never return to it’s original shape. Would you forget the history of undemocratic practices and legalised corruptions just because there is no independent news media around to point out these faults? Would people stop cringing when they read on Straits Times how egalitarian the government professed itself to be?

No of course not, so what would banning independent news media achieve? I realise that maybe K Shanmugam is not as obsessed at STR as I thought he was. Banning STR for a start means Singaporeans will be denied a platform to air their grievances. It is similar to the actual physical banning of gathering and deeming them illegal. Lee Hsien Loong is not concerned with one or two Alex Tan badmouthing him all the time, he is worried that Alex Tan would influence his 43,000 followers to criticise his government.

The “fake news” censorship is targeted at banning free discussions. One key reason why the Singapore government wants to see STR shut down is because the website actively ban government-paid trolls, also known as the Internet Brigade (IB). STR is an advocate of Facebook policies: fake profiles would be banned. Like Facebook too, STR is not only a news media, it is an active forum that promotes meaningful conversations bridging members of the public to air their opinions. There is no right or wrong opinion, even pro-PAP opinions are allowed because STR is not an arbiter of truth. If the comment is false or disruptive to discussions e.g. spams and copied-paste messages, it is readily removed.

Many Singaporeans enjoy the discussions in STR Facebook page, and they aren’t afraid of voicing out their dissent against the government. If this isn’t progress, what is?

Alex Tan
STR Editor