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.