Asia - Pacific
Index 2024
126/ 180
Score : 47.19
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Index 2023
129/ 180
Score : 47.88
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While Singapore boasts of being a model for economic development, it is an example of what not to be in regard to freedom of the press.

Media landscape

Although Singapore regularly presents itself as an advanced global city attractive to foreign capital, there is little respect for press freedom and editorial independence. The ruling People’s Action Party has long rejected the idea of the press being a “fourth estate” or watchdog of the powerful, and citizens have to deal with a media machine that is tightly controlled by the government. Facing many challenges, independent media outlets reporting on political and social issues are thus few and far between. Harassment by the authorities has steadily silenced the few independent news websites, such as The Online Citizen, which was forced to close at the end of 2021.

Political context

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s People’s Action Party (PAP) has ruled the city-state continuously since its independence in 1965. The party boasts a regulatory arsenal that allows the government to appoint members of the boards and the editors of leading media outlets, who are required to enforce the government line. The authorities also have the power to decide whether or not a foreign media outlet’s publications or broadcasts are permitted in the city-state.

Legal framework

Since the “anti-fake news” law’s adoption in 2019, the government can “correct” online content if it deems it to be “false” or decides that it must “prevent a diminution of public confidence in [...] the government.” The Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, which came fully into force at the end of 2023, also contains overly broad wording that could have an impact on media work. In September 2023, the Singapore government warned The Economist’s Singapore bureau chief against interfering in domestic politics simply because he had endorsed a new independent media outlet.

Economic context

Two large media groups own all of the major print, radio and broadcast media. The first, MediaCorp, is owned by a state investment company. The other, SPH Media Trust, was created after Singapore Press Holdings separated its media-related businesses into a new entity. It has a not-for-profit structure and receives direct funding from the government. The chairman of SPH Media Trust is a former PAP government minister. Self-censorship is widespread, including within independent media, which – despite alternative forms of funding – are subjected to systematic judicial and economic harassment by the government.

Sociocultural context

Implicit red lines defining topics that are off limits, known as “out of bounds markers,” are a source of fear and result in self-censorship on many subjects perceived as politically sensitive. With the local mainstream press either unwilling or unable to challenge the government’s narrative, citizens are often presented merely with state-approved perspectives on issues such as labour and human rights.


Bloggers and independent journalists have been sued for huge amounts in damages by senior members of the ruling party, including the prime minister, in person. In a highly connected society, news and information providers who cross red lines may also be subjected to smear campaigns orchestrated by ruling party supporters.