The kind of press that is the SPH

August 27, 2010
Singapore Democrats

This post is at least a year old. Some of the links in this post may no longer work correctly.

Singapore Democrats

We all know how the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) censors and spins news to the advantage of the ruling party. So this piece is really nothing new except that in this instance you get to see up close how the people at the SPH operate. Get your barf bag ready.

As we reported here and here, the Straits Times (ST) ran a story about how popular Dr Teo Ho Pin is as Bukit Panjang’s member of parliament. Earlier this year, however, groceries chain Sheng Siong Pte Ltd announced that it was buying over several wetmarkets across Singapore with the intention of turning them into supermarkets.

This created a furore with the vendors and stallholders who launched a petition expressing their opposition to the takeover as it would affect their livelihood. The matter acquired national prominence with Singaporeans also registering their concerns.

How often do you see Singaporeans, especially those who are not in political or civil society circles, organising a sign-up? Obviously, the matter was of grave concern to these folks.

The HDB stepped in to assure them that it would not allow Sheng Siong to turn the facilities into supermarkets. This was cold comfort to the stallholders as their primary concern was that the new owner would increase their rentals.

Their worst fears came true; Sheng Siong upped the rental of the stalls by an incredible 30 percent.

The shop operators would now have to do one of two things: Either absorb the rental increase which would mean that their earnings would immediately be cut 30 percent or pass on the cost increase to the shoppers.

Either that or they had to scale down their operations which meant they had to lay off workers. Many closed down and went out of business

Now back to the rah-rah ST article of Dr Teo. A sub-headline read: “Fajar wet market is ‘not an issue'”. That was a declaration by the MP himself.

Accompanying the headline was this picture (right) with the caption: “Madam Cham Mooi Kiong, 51, is one of the stallholders affected by the the rent hike at Fajar market but she continues to sell her vegetables and provisions at the sames prices.”

No prizes for guessing what the ST is up to. Plastering the page with a photograph of a happy-looking stallholder would go a long way in helping to bury the fallout from the takeover. The stallholders have not raised prices and everyone is happy.

But is the matter as simple as that?

Is this scenario realistic given that rent hike was not 3 percent but 30 percent? Was Madam Cham’s earnings affected? Did she have to open her stall longer? What about other stallholders? Did they increase their prices? What about those who have quit their businesses? Are they in even more hardship? What did the residents say?

These are questions that a newspaper with any self-respect would ask. And yet, ST completedly ignored them and set out to do a hack job of an article designed with only one thing in mind – to protect Dr Teo’s position. Fajar market not an issue. Case closed.

This is how the media have been playing the game all these decades. With no alternative sources of news and analysis, Singaporeans have been denied the truth.

Such unprofessionalism must not be allowed to continue. The Internet is an alternative source of news. While it may not yet have the reach that the ST has, the gap between the two media is closing and the more the SPH prints such rubbish and indulges in such shambolic journalism – if you can even call it journalism – the quicker the gap will narrow.