MCI's response to PQ on press freedom

Parliament Sitting on 16 November 2004

QUESTION No. *726 FOR ORAL ANSWER

Mr Steve Chia Kiah Hong : To ask the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, according to the latest world press freedom ranking report of Singapore by the international association, Reporters Sans Frontieres,

(a) are there reasons for the association to rank Singapore as the lowest developed country in terms of press freedom;

(b) how will this ranking affect the reputation and development of Singapore as a cosmopolitan city; and

(c) what efforts will be taken to give the press more freedom so as to move Singapore up the press freedom ranking scale.

Response from the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, Dr Lee Boon Yang:

    The Press Freedom Index drawn up by Reporters Sans Frontieres or RSF is based largely on a different media model which favours the advocacy and adversarial role of the press. We have a different media model in Singapore . Our model is that of a free and responsible press whose role is to report news accurately and objectively to Singaporeans. The Singapore media also serves as a platform for diverse views to be expressed and to reflect the debate on national issues. At the same time, our media has to be sensitive to our national interests such as the need to ensure racial and religious harmony and to promote our shared values as a society. This model has evolved out of our special circumstances and has enabled our media to contribute to nation building and strengthen the resolve and resilience of Singaporeans in the face of intense economic competition, terrorism threats, infectious diseases and social ills. Hence, we do not agree with RSF's press freedom ranking of Singapore , but they are entitled to their opinion.

Singapore 's Development As A Cosmopolitan City

2    Let me assure this House that RSF's ranking will not affect our reputation and development as a cosmopolitan city. How well we do as a global city depends much more on fundamentals such as good governance, our performance as a cohesive people and our ability to adapt to changes and connect with the world as part of a globalised economy.

3    Our standing as a progressive and successful country is underscored by a recent "2004 A.T. Kearney's Globalisation Index", which ranks countries on economic integration, technological connectivity, personal contact and political engagement. In this survey, Singapore was ranked the 2nd most global country in the world. In another recent "City Governance Survey" by Jones Lang LaSalle of 33 major cities, based on seven aspects of governance such as integrity, autonomy, stability, efficiency and effectiveness, Singapore emerged as the best-governed city. These two surveys reflect high international regard for Singapore as a cosmopolitan city on the global stage.

A Well-Connected City

4    In terms of information access, Singaporeans enjoy full access to a cosmopolitan media world. Today, Singapore is among the most connected countries in the region, with over 1.7 million Singaporeans having access to the Internet. There are 190 correspondents from 72 foreign media organisations and 15 satellite broadcasters based here reporting on local and regional events. We also have a 24-hour BBC World Service, and CNN, CNBC and other foreign broadcasts, as well as our own cable TV network offering diverse programming. Singaporeans also have access to over 5,500 foreign publications in circulation here.

Our Priority is Singapore 's Development

5    We have to get our priorities right. Over the years, we have pursued sound and pragmatic policies that have brought economic prosperity and a high standard of living for Singaporeans. Regardless of how we are ranked by international associations, our priority and challenge has been and must remain the prosperity and progress of Singapore . Faced with the tough challenges arising from a globalised economy with many new competitors, we have embarked on growing our creative and entrepreneurial drive. This will sharpen Singapore 's competitiveness, create new opportunities and enable us to emerge as a strong, prosperous and cohesive nation. We will continue to encourage diversity of views and ideas from Singaporeans while at the same time engage our people to work together to safeguard our social norms and values. Our media has a tremendously important role in this national effort by rallying Singaporeans to do the things which matter most to Singapore . This is certainly more important than for them to adopt practices which are not relevant to us just to gain the favours of international ranking associations.