Many have previously observed that The Straits Times often works against free speech by refusing to publish letters, articles and comments which go against the opinion they wish to present. In many incidences of such alleged censorship, reports on public interest issues have been arguably slanted and unobjective.
The danger to that is that the public’s right to information is compromised because of The Straits Times apparent agenda. To compound things, The Straits Times is the only major English publication in Singapore which the government openly recognises and quite possibly the only English print media outlet that the government grants interviews and directly engages with. Given their privilege of access, it is concerning that it then seemingly uses this privilege to influence the public to a certain view which many have deemed as biased.
Dr Lee Wei Ling, daughter of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew has just announced that she will no longer write for The Straits Times because of the “editorial curbs” that have been imposed by the publication (https://theindependent.sg.sg/lee-kuan-yews-daughter-says-she-will-no-longer-write-for-sph/) I can only speculate that this decision has something to do with the paper’s refusal to publish her views over the “hero worship” of her father after her Face Book posts.
Given that she is the late Mr Lee’s daughter, I would have imagined that her views on the commemoration events would have been very relevant. The fact that her opinion was not carried by the paper is curious and lends evidence to accusations levelled at the paper for allowing the promotion of a certain agenda to trump the public’s right to objective and unfettered information.
The Straits Times has oft been labelled as the mouthpiece of the PAP government. Given Dr Lee’s past affiliation with the paper and her close affinity to the political powerbase in Singapore, the fact that she has chosen to publicly criticise The Straits Times for editorial curbs is revealing and can be viewed as a strong indictment against the editorial practices of the paper.
While Dr Lee is not and has never been involved in politics, her position as Mr Lee’s only daughter has certainly made her privy to the workings of the Singapore government and how the government relates to the media. Given this relationship, I am certain that she would not have taken the decision to break with the paper lightly. The fact that she has speaks volumes on the seriousness of the so called “editorial curbs”.
Dr Lee sets an example in speaking out against undue editorial curbs and censorship which seem to serve no purpose apart from promoting certain self serving stances. It is however important to note that she is in a good position to constructively criticise given her standing with the powers be. The Straits Times will not be in a rush to take her to task in the way they would with average Joe.
Given the publicity that this incident has garnered, I would sincerely hope that The Straits Times takes its responsibilities to the people of Singapore seriously and respects the public’s right to information. If Dr Lee with her political connections and close relationship to the paper can publicly take it to task at risk of embarrassing certain associates, the problem of undue censorship must be even larger than perceived.
Perhaps this is a gentle reminder to the paper that its main business is the report of unbiased news. It is not a PR firm who should be protecting any agenda apart from the truth.
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