Who Wants An Independent Media II?



Amazing! As of 21 June, 51 out of 58 polled say independent media means “Impartial, balanced coverage of both PAP and Opposition”. 88% of people polled believe that ‘independence’ means ‘balanced’ coverage, which implies that they don’t believe our media is balanced right now.

They’re wrong, but this shows how much the PAP has skewed the people’s thinking that they don’t even understand what ‘independent’ media really means.

Independent media, by definition, means media independent of government control. That’s all. That’s the only promise they make– that they do not take directions from the Govt. From any Govt, of any party.

Independent media does not necessarily mean that it will be impartial or balanced. Indeed, while the leading national dailies such as the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc all try very hard to deliver accurate and complete news reports, they have their own political leanings in their op-eds, some favouring the Republicans, some favoring the Democrats.

But what makes them independent is that the US Govt cannot tell them what to print or not to print, and cannot tell them not to criticize the President or the Administration– which they frequently do on everything from the Budget deficit to the war or terror.

What makes them independent is that they are filled with reporters who will do anything to get a story– especially one that will expose a scandal that can bring down a President or an Administration.

Without such reporters, Watergate would not have been revealed and Nixon would not have been forced to resign. Without them the Iran-Contra scandal would not been exposed, the effects of Agent Orange would not have been made public, and Monica Lewinsky would still be sucking on Clinton.

That’s what independence means.

When the media is truly independent, it becomes a centre of power, the Fourth Estate as it is popularly known, and it acts as a check on the Govt, the Parliament and the Organs of State.

It is for this reason that independent media is feared by those who wish to rule unopposed, for when they have the ability to expose the wrongdoings of those in power without fear of reprisal, those in power fear them.

However, some people feel that independence from Govt control is not good enough. Because the media are typically controlled by big business and corporates, they feel it can’t really be independent because they have to do what advertisers want and they serve the interests of big business. To them, media can only be really independent when people like Rupert Murdoch or Michael Bloomberg are not allowed to own or control the media.

While I understand their concerns, I must respectfully disagree with such views. However, that is another topic for another time.

For now, let me just say that, when we do have independent media in Singapore, there will still be papers which are pro-PAP, and people like Chua Mui Hoong will still be singing the praises of PAP.

But what is important is that, there will also be papers which are pro-WP, pro-SDP, pro-NSP, etc.

There will be papers that advocate gay rights, papers that question the ‘Marxist’ conspiracy, papers that deliver hard-hitting criticisms of the Attorney General, of our Judges, of our Ministers, of our MP’s, regardless of which party they are from.

Such media may well be unbalanced and partial in their coverage, but what is important is that, journalists will finally be able to write and say what they want to say, without fear of losing their publishing licence, without fear of losing their journalist accreditation with MICA.

In short, journalists will be free to be journalists when we have a truly independent media, and I believe that, on balance, Singapore and Singaporeans will benefit from their independence.

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About politicalwritings

Someone who sees beyond PAP and "opposition" in Singapore politics. To understand more please see the Top 10 link below.
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6 Responses to Who Wants An Independent Media II?

  1. Huat says:

    //When the media is truly independent, it becomes a centre of power, the Fourth Estate as it is popularly known, and it acts as a check on the Govt, the Parliament and the Organs of State.//

    The only thing our media does is to check on the citizens!
    They tell us how to not to use foul language and become rude and unbecoming.
    They tell us what to read like Temasek Times and Ms XX bloggers and Hardtruths etc that they secretly support.
    They tell us anti-foriegner sentiments come from blogs/sites like TRemeritus that oppose them
    They tell us they will be shamed if they get stomped if they’ don’t behave.
    They tell us they are independent, unbiased and balanced when it comes to good news.

    The only way to boot them all out is NOT to buy their papers. Read their reputations worldwide and you’ll understand why we’re 150th in press freedom.
    http://www.asiasentinel.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4608&Itemid=173

  2. Cheng says:

    Watch the video of how former MP Tony Blair was heckled by a citizen in HK when he was there recently for a seminar talk. He then said “..that’s what democracy is about. I’m used to it” and move on, followed by how the UK press reported that, factually and as-a-matter-of-fact.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/jun/14/tony-blair-avoids-citizens-arrest

    Compare that to the tiny episode we had at the pre-u seminar. What our DPM Teo /MHA did to the parents/student and how the press made a big lecture about it. Then tell me who has the first world standard? This country still trying to practice confucianism-autocracy where they expect you to give them the respect by virtue of their place in the society!

  3. Pingback: Who Wants An Independent Media? | Political Writings

  4. a says:

    I checked “Impartial, balanced coverage of both PAP and Opposition” at first.
    and when i read “Independent media, by definition, means media independent of government control.” in your posting, I changed to “Anything goes”.

    But as I read on, i decided to stand for “Impartial, balanced coverage of both PAP and Opposition”

    I’m inclined to believe that what you saying is that, the media can write whatever they want. That I disagree, as I believe being the Fourth Estate (which I believe in) comes with responsibility, and that responsibility comes in the form of being able to push aside one’s political agenda (which you’ve acknowledged but did not address) and capitalism control (which you’ve dodged entirely with ‘another topic for another time’ approach).

    My belief is this: I believe the media shld be regard as the Fourth Estate, but by being so, it comes with responsibility, and that responsibility is simply be impartial, and have balanced reports on any topic or party. No bias. Simply fact in context.

    Perhaps you’d disagree that I’m just being idealistic by looking at how the world’s run- I agree. But succumbing to that and not striving for that ideal, that i disagree.

    “In short, journalists will be free to be journalists when we have a truly independent media, and I believe that, on balance, Singapore and Singaporeans will benefit from their independence.”
    What you’ve written and substantiated is that facts and opinions should be on the same level platform…. that I disagree.

    Because I would rather go further and say that Facts and Context should be the frontier. Opinions, sentiment piece should come secondary. Any mainstream reporting should come with the responsibility to be impartial, factual and contextual. Opinions, biases, sentiment should be clearly stated. This system, I believe, will become the true Fourth Estate as it educates, and good Fourth Estate with good power when it influences. This system has yet to be practised, idealistic and perhaps unattainable (I agree), but those reasons should not be the excuse to strive.

  5. Ivan Lu says:

    I find this poll quite meaningless. The correct answer which you advocate, that of a media being independent of the government isn’t even a poll option. The closest one to it, “Anything goes” would strike any respondent as a frivolous answer which conjures up an impression of tabloid-style reporting. If anything, this exercise proves one thing. You can skew responses to promote a viewpoint by distorting and misrepresenting some of the poll options. Try this poll in other countries, and I’m pretty sure you’ll find much the same results.

    • Thanks for comments. “Anything goes” is the outcome of a free media– which is what people should understand. That’s why we have The Onion (which publishes frivolous “news”), National Enquirer (which publishes incredible “news”), The Sun (which publishes tits), there are right-wing newspapers, there are left-wing newspapers, etc. They all exist because there is freedom of the press, the Govt cannot do anything to them.
       
      “Anything goes” is not frivolous. It shows clearly that journalists are free to write things any way they want– not just toe a Govt line. It even shows that one can publish incredible “news” and earn money from it. But it also means that serious and influential newspapers like the Washington Post can thrive and take strong positions against politicians without fear of govt reprisal. That’s very powerful.

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