Photo of SPH papers from Yahoo Singapore

“Raise the GST to help the poor”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2006. From then onward, Singapore spend the next decade with the highest cost of living and rising inequality. There are more poor people relying on assistance and the government have to increase cash handouts every year. In contrast to what the propaganda fake news claimed, the GST increase clearly did not help the poor and only exacerbate the poverty problem.

This is only one of the many propaganda fake news that is distributed by the Singapore government, in it’s bid to raise taxes and support astronomical ministerial salaries.

STR agrees with Law Minister K Shanmugam on one thing: Singapore indeed does have a fake news problem. However, his government is the fake news fabricator crying victim here.

As more Singaporeans become more politically-savvy and learned more about the actual Singapore state of current affairs from the internet, many started questioning the government’s over-simplified and one-dimensional propaganda for government policies. Take the construction of casinos for example, the government at the time in 2010 said the gambling-related taxes generated would ensure lower tax burden on the people in the coming years. The propaganda turned out to be an outright lie as proven in the numerous tax increases thereafter, and the social ill of gambling became viral since.

Not long after, many Singaporeans started opposing government policies openly and achieved significant impact, albeit limited, steering policies. A population white paper proposed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calling for a 6.9 million population in Singapore led to one of the highest protest turnout in the dictatorship. The population increase plan was bombarded with propaganda fake news everyday.

State media Straits Times ran fake news threatening that old-age support ratio is becoming unsustainable and how the GDP would be devastated. Unfortunately, Singaporeans did not buy the propaganda and continued to voice opposition against the Prime Minister.

Although the 6.9 million plan was not officially postponed or shelved, statistics has shown that the people’s opposition to the policy was actually a success. Population growth started shaving off, with the recent 2016-2017 period seeing only a 1.7% increase.

There is however a missing player in the stopping of population growth, and that is the presence of Temasek Review (TR), it’s unofficial successor, The Real Singapore (TRS), and States Times Review (STR). The independent news sites thawed the government’s plan by posting analysis and providing an open platform for Singaporeans to air their commentaries and opinions on the controversial policy. The 6.9 million population protest was largely advertised on the independent news sites, as the state media – naturally – refuse to partake in the resistance.

Fake news is very real in Singapore, and Singaporeans have more to worry about state-sanctioned propaganda printed daily on hardcopy circulation, than an Australian website providing critical analysis of current affairs. This is also why the Singapore government can never be trusted with censorship powers, because it will only create a giant echo chamber in Singapore’s media landscape.

Singapore is already stifling enough, it should be doing the right thing dismantling existing censorship instead of making new ones to serve the government’s political agenda. This is not an argument against censorship, it is an argument against a rogue dictatorship bent on controlling communication – a natural human right. Singaporeans are educated enough, and not dangerous like the Americans who have a right to gun purchase, to discern for themselves a piece of content they are reading.

“Vivian Balakrishnan has collapsed” fake news is certainly nowhere as serious as “How do we pay tens of billions for Terminal 5” I am certain.

Alex Tan
STR Editor