11/05/2005

chok tong's take on the role of media

while ho kwonping's position was confusing, chok tong's is perplexing. his opening shot is that to hell with western opinion on press freedom here. and, press freedom does not guarantee good govt. or in an indirect way, we don't need press freedom to govern well. many western liberals or advocates of press freedom or freedom of expression will definitely frown on these remarks. can't blame the outgoing us ambassador lavine for his comments on this issue. then again chok tong made all the remarks that are deemed proper and correct in the same breath. things like the press must not be a mouth piece of the govt and parrot whatever the govt said or it would lose its credibility. and that he did not favour a subservient press...an unthinking press is not good for singapore. he added that the media is free to put across a range of worthy different viewpoints to encourage constructive social and political discourse. ho kwonping better take note of this last point and not churn out a press that has no opinion of its own and no view to express except to borrow other people's view to make a point. so what did choktong really said? maybe with regard to press freedom, if there is a choice, lesser freedom is acceptable as long as the country is governed well. and the press should play a constructive role to engage the people in issues that concerned the nation. otherwise, we will continue to have an apathetic people and press for a long time to come. now comes the tricky part. how could the media navigate through this maze, to be constructive, relevant and credible and without stepping on the govt's toe? or to tow the line without being seen to be so, and not to lose its credibility in the eyes of the people. in fact warren fernandez has described in his article this morning (5 nov) that the bbc was able to play a constructive role during the bombings in london because the readers believed in its objectivity. do our readers believe in what is reported in the straits times with respect to govt policies and positions? comments from the kopitiams is very negative. that it is a very biased paper that does not have an independent view. with ho kwonping's confirmation of its role as a passive paper, it is very difficult for the media to change the perception of its readers or the people. then should it be bothered? or should it adopt the position that press freedom is not important as long as the govt is governing well?

2 comments:

redbean said...

several responses from the public and from chok tong's office were printed in the straits times forum on press freedom. things like the press is unaccountable to the public or the press must not set the agenda, all missed the point of what the press can or cannot do.

choktong said it, the press must be responsible. it all boils down to responsibility on the part of the press and also on the part of the govt. whe everyone is responsible there is no issue. problems arise when one party is irresponsible. and that doen't limit itself to just the press. the govt must also be responsible.

an irresponsible govt will attract unfavourable and unpleasant comments from the press. an irresponsible press will be taken to task by the govt. it will be held responsible to the people by the govt. the press is accountable to the people for its reportings.

and there is nothing wrong with the press setting its agenda as long as it is responsible. in fact every citizen, organisation or media shall be free to set its own agenda as long as it is responsible and for the nation or public interest. that's where the checks and balances of freedom of expression come in.

the govt shall have no fear of a responsible press, people and organisations. all nkfs must be exposed by a responsible press or by the people. if nkfs cannot be spoken, then we are in trouble.

redbean said...

chua mui hoong, a straits times journalist, commented, 'when the govt here respects the media enough to not want to influence it unduly, and trusts the media enough to safeguard -not curtail-its right to independent judgment, then we would truly have a media that serves singapore best.'

now what is mui hoong trying to say? 'when'is the key to what she is really meant.