In one of the segments of his interview by BBC HARDtalk’s Stephen Sackur, the dishonorable son Lee Hsien Loong was grilled on the issue of Press Freedom in Singapore. In a garbled response to how he would react if the UK were to set a precondition for freedom of expression and freedom of the press in trade talks, Lee commented on the speed of internet access in Singapore and asked: “So where is the restriction?”
First, we find it baffling how internet speed equates to lack of restrictions on press freedom or freedom of expression. Secondly, perhaps Lee Hsien Loong can explain to us what the Newspaper & Printing Presses Act is for if not to restrict the press?
Under the Act: 1. The PAP Minister has great discretionary power to revoke the license of any newspapers published in S’pore. No one may also publish any newspapers without his permission. 2. The PAP government controls SPH via the issuance of Management Shares.
The Act states that these shares must be transferred to persons who have the Government’s approval. Holders of management shares who are effectively government nominees have 200 times more voting rights than ordinary shareholders in respect of “the appointment or dismissal of a director or any member of the staff of a newspaper company”.
3. Foreign publications risk being gazetted and restricted from circulation in S’pore if the PAP minister deems them to be “engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore”.
So may we ask Lee, if these are not restrictions on press freedom, then what are they?