The real reason behind the PAP’s action against FEER

August 4, 2006
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore hardens stance towards foreign media

Kyodo News Agency
3 Aug 06

The Singapore government announced Thursday a tougher policy against the Far Eastern Economic Review and four other foreign publications circulating in Singapore as a warning that they should stay off domestic politics.

Strict conditions have been reimposed on the Far Eastern Economic Review and also the International Herald Tribune, the Financial Times, and Newsweek and TIME magazines for their circulation in the tightly-controlled city-state, the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts said in a statement.

The move came after the Review published an article based on its editor Hugh Restall’s interview with Singapore opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, who was labeled “Singapore’s ‘Martyr'” in the article’s title.

Chee, who heads the Singapore Democratic Party, was recently sued by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who allege they were defamed by an article in the opposition party’s newspaper that linked corruption at the National Kidney Foundation to the way the city-state is run.

The article, published in the Review’s latest issue, criticized Singapore government leaders for suing their critics in the past.

The government’s statement makes no mention of the article but calls it “a privilege, and not a right, for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore.” (Emphasis added)

“They do so as foreign observers of the local scene and should not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore,” it says.

The government has already served notice to the Review, a Dow Jones & Co. publication based in Hong Kong, on the change in policy, it said.

The Far Eastern Economic Review, which was blacklisted by the government as a “declared foreign newspaper” in 1987 for an article deemed interference in Singapore’s domestic politics, was able to circulate here more easily when it switched from a weekly to a monthly publication in December 2004.

“However, FEER remains a declared foreign newspaper. It is an anomaly for FEER, which is a declared foreign newspaper, not to be subjected to the conditions that apply to the other declared foreign newspapers,” the statement says, referring to the magazine by its acronym.

The magazine has been ordered to appoint a representative in Singapore to accept service of legal documents in any future legal actions, and to submit a security deposit of S$200,000 (US$127,000). Its circulation will still be capped at 10,000 copies, the statement says.

After a review, the government has also decided to lift the “exempted” status of the four other publications and restore conditions on their circulation here.

“These newspapers now regularly report on political issues in the region and Singapore, and have significant circulations in Singapore,” the statement says.

Singapore’s government has had an uneasy relationship with the foreign media for decades, slapping defamation suits against them, banning them or curbing their circulation when they publish articles found offensive.

SDP’s note: And because the Government’s statement makes no mention of the FEER interview with Dr Chee, the CNA report below slavishly sticks to the party-line and makes no mention of the reason for the Government’s present punitive action. This is the sort of “journalism” Singaporeans have been subjected to. Ironically, it reinforces the fact that the foreign media matters to Singapore now more than ever. Without the Kyodo news report above, Singaporeans would be left to guess the motivation behind the PAP’s latest action.

FEER required to comply with conditions for offshore newspaper: Govt

Channel News Asia

3 August 2006 http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/singaporelocalnews/view/222903/1/.html

The government has notified the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) that it will have to comply with conditions required of offshore newspapers under Section 23 (3) of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act.

From September 11 this year, FEER will have to appoint a legal representative in Singapore to deal with any lawsuits that may arise against the publisher.

It will also have to post a security deposit of S$200,000.

But there will be no change to FEER’s current circulation cap of 10,000 copies.

This change is to correct an anomaly for FEER, which currently does not have to comply with conditions for offshore newspapers.

It follows the FEER’s move from a weekly to a monthly publication in 2004.

But FEER is still a declared foreign newspaper, defined as one engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore.

K Bhavani, Press Secretary to the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, says it was an administrative oversight not to have subjected the news magazine to the same conditions required for declared foreign newspapers.

She adds that the conditions for offshore newspapers are not something new.

Several offshore newspapers have already posted the security bond and appointed representatives in Singapore.

The FEER was gazetted as a declared foreign newspaper on 26 December 1987 for interfering in the domestic politics of Singapore.

Subsequently, the FEER was also classified as an offshore newspaper following the amendment to the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act on 30 August 1990, and was subjected to the conditions under the Act.

The government has also reviewed the exempt status of offshore newspapers circulating in Singapore as a result of changes in the media scene.

It has notified four publications – the International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, Newsweek and TIME – that the exemption granted to them will be lifted when their current permits expire.

This means they will then have to appoint a legal representative in Singapore and post a bond of S$200,000.

The government says these publications now regularly report on political issues in the region and Singapore, and have significant circulations here.

Since 1990, some offshore newspapers were exempted from certain provisions under the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act before they were permitted to circulate in Singapore.

But the Minister may allow declared foreign newspapers, defined as those engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore, to continue circulation in the country.

This approval may also be granted subject to conditions.

The Ministry of Communications, Information and the Arts says the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act serves to reinforce the government’s consistent position that it is a privilege and not a right for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore.

It adds that they do so as foreign observers of the local scene and should not interfere in the domestic politics of Singapore.