Mass media in Singapore and Asia

 

Kean Wong, a journalist, states that most people, especially the bulk that lie in the middle class sector, do not mind trading civil rights or transparency in news for monetary and economic benefits. Chandra Muzaffar, from Malaysia’s opposition party feels that freedom of press is essential in the role of nation building. He stated India as an example: about how the country never suffers from famine as opposed to China. The difference between both countries is that one practices transparency in news coverage and the other does not practice free press.

Chandra believes that “it is in democracies that you can ensure real development”. However he feels that for all these to happen, the government leaders need to see that even with free press and an open media, stability still can ensue. On the topic of governmental control over the media, and using Malaysia as an example, Chandra states that almost every newspaper is affiliated or linked to the government. Therefore he states that ownership is another method of controlling. The other one is self-censorship.

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He feels that because of the fear of the government (in particular, the fear of having their material possessions and wealth challenged and taken away) most people, in particular journalists get over cautious over the issues they report on. Similarly, also discussed was the fact that cronyism is prevalent in the Indonesian political scene. Large shares of the media were being divided amongst President Suharto’s family and the government. 3. One of the variables includes determining what exactly and by whose standards are Asian values.

Each nation develops and progresses at its own pace. Furthermore, even within the Asian countries, there are different cultures and practices. To actually determine what and where the benchmark is with regards to Asian values is very difficult and will vary as time passes because of development and changes. Although Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that east Asians “have a deep and abiding faith… to help them survive these crises. ” It is also stated in the transcript, by Singapore Prime Minister Goh, about how “Philippines and Singaporeans have completely different values.

” Both points contradict. Lee also said that Asians ‘have certain historical traditions and habits and values… if its going to help improve our wealth, our well-being, we will incorporate whatever the Americans or anybody else offers us, but to throw away ourselves and become somebody else, that’s not possible” . That begs the question of how the media is supposed to reflect Asian values and yet match up to the West and their free press. Besides censorship from the government bodies, free press is hard to attain because of the concept of self-censorship.

Issues regarding the economy, business and politics take dominance in news coverage. In Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, where the media companies are often linked or connected to the government bodies, to own any part of the media brings some sort of control and power. This inevitably leads to over cautiousness which is the result of self censorship. 4. It is true that Asian countries do not have free press and that media content is very much controlled by the government. Advocates of free press, the West, do not fully practice free press as well do they?

Take for example the war against Osama: news footage from CNN focus on the US soldiers in full glory and cover little on the atrocities of the war on the Afghanistan side. Accusations that the journalists have not been outright honest in their reports spread and the reason was because many of them were afraid of Bush and the United States’ government, should they report on something unfavourable to the Bush administration. On the assumption that even among Asian nations, there can never reach a consensus as to what exactly entails Asian values.

It is true to a certain extent but the objective may not be to draw and define exactly what Asian values are but to reach a common understanding regarding the values and cultural traditions that prevails in all. With regards to Chandra’s take on stability and the free press, he claimed that stability could ensue even with free press. However is that true? If so many voices speak at one time, who should the members of the public listen to? Different voices speaking out at the same time would divide a country because the public will choose who to listen to.

Regarding the fact that the bulk of the people coming from the middle class sector do not mind trading civil rights or transparency in news for monetary and economic benefits, why should they? If the government is doing a good job and leading the country and economy to greater and greener pastures, why should they strike out? Basically, if they are comfortable at the position and place they stand, there should be no need for them to “disturb the peace”. Chandra also stated that “it is in democracies that you can ensure real development”. Is that really true? In his definition, Singapore is not a democratic country at all.

Yet she manages to prosper despite not having full “democracy. ” Addressing his statement on the fact that there hasn’t been a single society in history which has been free, where the people have gone hungry, the question would be “Is it true that all countries who don’t practice full transparency and free press, suffer from famine then? ” We might not practice free press but that doesn’t mean our form of media is wrong. What Asian countries practice is a form of controlled media and besides, the idea of free press begets the question, how free is free? Even in free press, the inevitable, like self cautiousness is practiced.

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