Good morning. I think this event is an important part of our efforts to maintain some level of continuity in the way we do things, even as we deal with a crisis like COVID-19. Thank you very much for being here today. I really appreciate your presence and your support for NLB’s work.

2         I want to start by acknowledging Mr Ng Cher Pong, the CEO of NLB; friends and partners of NLB; ladies and gentlemen. I am very happy to join you today at the opening of NLB’s new permanent exhibition.

The News Gallery: A Reflection of History

3          Newspapers provide us with the first drafts of history, and play critical roles in shaping perceptions, both within society and those that others have of us. “The News Gallery: Beyond Headlines” showcases the considerable resources in NLB’s collection of Singapore-published newspapers.  Few people may be aware, for instance, that The Straits Times is the oldest existing newspaper in East Asia today. Its first issue was published in 1845.  Indeed, the history of Singapore’s domestic media is also very much intertwined with our own history as a modern state.

4          The newspapers have chronicled our lives and our times. The invention of the printing press in China almost a thousand years ago, and subsequently in Europe some four hundred years thereafter, made all this possible. It enabled the creation, storage and dissemination of massive volumes of new knowledge.  It laid the foundations for scientific inquiry, built new economies and even catalysed historic events through the dispersal of information widely to the masses.

5          So I want to commend the NLB for this initiative to promote its collection.  I am particularly pleased that they have employed much interactivity and ensured an immersive experience for viewers.  It is in keeping with the times, and taking full advantage of what technology has to offer us.

6          Our librarians and archivists have worked diligently to bring more of NLB’s collections online.  The NewspaperSG online archive currently holds over 40 newspaper titles dated from the 1820s.  Similarly, BookSG, PictureSG, and even the NLB Mobile App, allow Singaporeans and researchers to readily access the wealth of information in the NLB’s collections.

Beyond Headlines: Discerning Credibility and Veracity

7          The selection of newspaper reports, photographs and audio visual footage in “The News Gallery” underscores the importance of a discerning eye to information. How news and information is presented to us shapes our sense of reality.  It can influence our perceptions and beliefs.  For example, take the vastly different portrayals of the custody battle over Maria Hertogh in the 1950s.

8          Reports and photographs employed in the English papers led one segment of society to believe Maria was happy and ready to embrace her Western identity.  On the other hand, the Malay papers convinced another segment of society that Maria was being forced to give up her Muslim identity against her will.  The sensational accounts exacerbated the animosity between the two groups, and contributed to the subsequent riots.

9          “The News Gallery” invites us to go “Beyond Headlines” and examine each source of information, including the angles employed in photographs – What were the interests of those who wrote for a particular paper?  What message did the writer want to get across to their particular audience?  We are encouraged to think critically, to compare differing accounts before coming to an informed interpretation of events. 

Consuming, Creating and Sharing Information Responsibly

10          Indeed, in the past few weeks, we have seen how rumours and misleading information about COVID-19 spread with alarming speed, sparking public panic and fuelling undesirable behaviour in some instances. COVID-19 is not just an example of a public healthcare challenge, but also an information, communication and psychological challenge. How we are able to maintain a certain calmness in our society through timely, transparent sharing of information, has been an important feature of the way the Government has gone about this effort to manage the COVID-19 challenge. We have also seen accounts of kindness experienced on the ground circulating widely through the same channels that purveyed the falsehoods, rallying Singaporeans to stand united in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
11          NLB’s information literacy campaign puts it well. We need always to Be S.U.R.E. before we act on any news we receive. S.U.R.E stands for “Source, Understand, Research and Evaluate”.  These are the four concepts we should keep in mind when assessing the reliability and veracity of news we encounter.  As information technology continues to transform the media environment, there will always be a need for accurate, balanced and credible information amidst the cacophony of the new media.

12          Under the upgraded S.U.R.E. 2.0 programme, NLB has developed educational materials catered to different segments of the population, including students, seniors, working adults.  “The News Gallery” conveys this literacy framework interactively, and is a timely addition to NLB’s ongoing efforts to promote information and media literacy.  It also exemplifies NLB’s push to deepen the quality of engagements and develop innovative ways of reaching out to Singaporeans.

13          Ultimately, the content that we put out captures who we are and what we value as a society.  By thinking critically about the information we receive, and grounding our communications in facts and informed judgements, we are able to participate meaningfully in the information economy and shape our own story.  These are attitudes and values that would stand the test of time, transcending technology and history because they are evergreen, important values that will guide us in the way we receive, process and act on information.

14          As we take in the exhibits on display today, I hope Singaporeans of all ages can gain a better grasp of information literacy and of our shared history and heritage.  It is in that spirit that I take great pleasure in declaring “The News Gallery: Beyond Headlines” permanent exhibition, open. 

15          Thank you.

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