Lim Jim Koon
Mohd Guntor Sadali
Nirmala Murugaian (Ms)
Dear Chief Editors,
The general elections are on the horizon and, as with elections both in Singapore and elsewhere, the media play a crucial role in reporting the news and views of the various contesting parties. As one of these parties the SDP is naturally concerned, as we have been for decades, with the state of the press in Singapore.
I write to propose a dialogue about how, in particular, your newspapers will cover this elections and also, more generally, how the media situation in Singapore can be improved.
I acknowledge that there cannot be perfect fairness in this imperfect world. But that's not license for those in government to monopolise power which includes control of the media. Fairness is an ideal which we must strive to approximate even though we may never be able to attain it.
With this in mind I hope that we can start this conversation by my asking a few questions that are, I am sure, in the minds of many a Singaporean:
One, how do you feel about the situation given the fact that you operate under the purview of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA) which effectively gives the PAP a monopoly of the media in Singapore? As journalists, are you trying to change the situation or are you comfortable with the status quo?
Two, in this changed environment with the advent of new media tools, do you think the coverage of the coming elections will be any different from previous ones? If yes, how will your newspapers adapt to such changes?
Three, we understand that on-the-ground reporters are doing their utmost to report as fairly as they can about the opposition but are constrained by heavy editing from their superiors. Is this true?
The above questions notwithstanding, I would like to, for a start, make a few proposals that might help improve the politico-media situation in Singapore:
First, reserve a column in your newspapers for political parties to write a piece of their choice (policy position, party activity, comment on a current issue, etc) on a weekly rotation basis.
Second, organise a meeting with your editorial boards for us to discuss how coverage of the opposition, especially the SDP, can be fairer during the elections.
I have met editorial boards of the major newspapers all over the world including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Le Monde, The Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, etc. However, I have yet to meet with any editorial boards of the stable of newspapers in the Singapore Press Holdings.
Third, invite party leaders to speak at Singapore Press Club (SPC). I have addressed the Foreign Correspondents' Association in Singapore and elsewhere on several occasions but never had the opportunity to do the same at the SPC. I think the political situation in Singapore would be greatly helped if such events were held.
Alternatively, we could invite you to speak at forums that we organise so that our party members and members of the public can better understand the position and role of the media in Singapore.
These questions and proposals are meant to be a starting point for a national conversation between the Singapore Democrats and the media which is long overdue.
As this matter is of public interest, I think it is only appropriate that I make this letter available on our website yoursdp.org and you are free to publish it in yours. I hope that our discussion can proceed in such an open format.
I anticipate your response. Thank you.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party