An alternative way to curtail press freedom
In 2020, Singapore’s colour on the World Press Freedom Index map changed to black, meaning that the situation there is now is classified as “very bad.” Despite the “Switzerland of the East” label often used in Singapore government propaganda, the city-state does not fall far short of China when it comes to suppressing media freedom. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government is always quick to sue critical journalists, or apply pressure to make them unemployable, or even force them to leave the country.
The Media Development Authority has the power to censor all forms of journalistic content. Defamation suits are common and may sometimes be accompanied by a charge of sedition, which is punishable by up to 21 years in prison. As a result of judicial and financial pressure from the authorities, self-censorship is widespread, including within the alternative independent media. The red lines imposed by the authorities, known by journalists as “OB markers” (for out- of-bounds markers), apply to an ever-wider range of issues and public figures. The Singaporean authorities have also started sending journalists emails threatening them with up to 20 years in prison if they don’t remove offensive articles and get into line.
Finally, 2019 saw a significant deterioration with the adoption of an “anti-fake news” law with Orwellian provisions that allows the government to act as a combination of Ministry of Truth and censorship office for the social media era, ordering both media outlets and digital platforms to post “corrections” to any content deemed “incorrect.”
151 in 2019
51.41 in 2019