“Today, every newspaper in Singapore, except for TODAY which is owned by MediaCorp, is owned by the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). The list of people who have chaired the SPH reads like a who’s who of the PAP faithful: Mr Lim Kim San (former cabinet minister), Mr S R Nathan (former president), Mr Tony Tan (former deputy prime minister and president), and Mr Lee Boon Yang (former minister and current chairman).
The history of the broadcast media is a lot less eventful. Apart from the change in name – from Radio and Television Singapore (RTS) to the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) to Television (and Radio) Corporation of Singapore (TCS) to MediaCorp – the broadcaster at Caldecott has always remained in the hands of the government. With apologies to Shakespeare, arsenic by any other name tastes just as poisonous.
The international media were not spared. Time, Newsweek, Asiaweek, Far Eastern Economic Review, International Herald Tribune, The Economist, and Asian Wall Street Journal were either banned, sued or had their circulation curtailed for reporting unfavourably on our rulers.
Yet, Mr Tharman would have us believe that, having gone through all this trouble, all his party wants is for us to have a media that are “responsible players in an evolving Singapore democracy”.
Yes, and we were all born yesterday.
For the country’s good, as always
Having a free media, the DPM adds, is not good for Singapore as they have the ability to “divide people”. He continues with his party’s favourite trope that “our media does a better job at advancing the collective interests of Singaporeans…”
Autocrats don’t ever crack down on dissent for the own selfish ends; they always do it for the good of the country. Even Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader who killed more than one million of his fellow Cambodians averred: “Everything I did, I did for my country.”
But this is where Mr Tharman’s rhetoric is so dangerous. Unlike his cabinet mates, like Mr Ong Ye Kung’s clumsy and unadorned call for more years of one-party rule, Mr Tharman seduces his critics, good-cop-bad-cop style, by pointing out that he was an activist himself, that he doesn’t always agree with his party colleagues’ tactics, that he would have liked to see a contest for presidency, etc.
But dwell on them and one sees that these statements are ornamental, serving only to prettify the stark reality that his party has no intention of relaxing its undemocratic grip on Singapore.
Even a cursory survey of history demonstrates irrefutably that closed and captured media ultimately destroy the societies they beguile. Vőlkischer Beobachter in Nazi Germany, Pravda in the Soviet Union, Dabiq in the Islamic State, take your pick, all blindfolded their peoples to misery.
On the other hand, newspapers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and news agencies like Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, fallible as they are, are all sources on which the PAP leaders privately rely for news but publicly denigrate for convenience.
Ironically, it is the contestation of views and ideas enabled by a free media that has ensured human progress. In this day and country, such media are essential to breaking the mind-forged manacles that the PAP has put on us, manacles that continue to stifle the development of a creative and innovative culture.
For all his erudition, it is tragic that Mr Tharman cannot see that the cacophony of views in a democracy – as discordant as they might be – is not a menace to society. It is, instead, the very essence of a modern and sophisticated community and a trait needed for the development of a robust immune system to withstand shocks and a dynamic constitution to inspire growth.
Taking us for fools
“I don’t think Singaporeans are fools,” Mr Tharman admits.
On this, he is completely on the mark. That is why his party has had to resort to introducing the GRC system, politicising the People’s Association, threatening to withhold HDB upgrading, suing and prosecuting the opposition, and reserving the presidency in order to stay in power.
But the bigger question is: If the DPM believes that Singaporeans are no fools, then why does he continue to tell us to believe him and not our lying eyes?”
Read his full post below.