One year ago today, we started on a journey to occupy a vacuum in the Singapore media space that has been given on a platter to two players.
Despite many manoeuvres to stop us in our tracks, The Independent Singapore has survived. We hope those who put up the road blocks now realize how foolhardy their actions have been.
The team has tried to keep faith with its editorial ideology underpinned by three words – responsible, intelligent and robust. No other media outlet, we dare say, has tried to adopt this ideology.
It is much easier to agree or disagree with everything the government does. It is tough, damn tough, to walk the independent middle path with reports, commentaries and analyses that can sometimes anger the establishment and sometimes upset those who oppose for the sake of opposing.
You must be activists, a civil society advocate told us recently. We see our role differently; we want to bring about a new form of journalism that will put Singapore and Singaporeans first.
We’ve published articles critical of the Workers’ Party and others based on their pronouncements. Occasionally, we have also brought to light stories that would otherwise have been ignored by mainstream media, in particular the heart-wrenching suicide story of 22-year-old national serviceman Ganesh Pillay Magindren who, despite being diagnosed as schizophrenic, was not accorded any special treatment by his superiors because his illness was not seen as a problem.
There are clearly lessons to be learnt from this case but we’ll never know because Mindef has been silent, whatever elected Ministers say in Parliament about National Service.
Our Roy Ngerng articles, like those on the hijab controversy, fuelled a great deal of social media debate but got no real response from a stone-walling government.
In the meantime, the government has set out policies to improve its popularity in time for the next general election. More payouts can be expected before the next elections.
What can the Workers’ Party promise? To be a check so as to draw more goodies from the ruling party? Its reticence, especially in Parliament, is causing some segments of society to question its strategy.
The public will remember that Roy Ngerng managed to get the government to reveal more information about the CPF with his public pronouncements than any WP MP in or out of Parliament!.
The mess over children’s books promoting “wrong” values in the National Library’s selection process has revealed the earlier ban on Archie and X-Men comics that the MDA felt promoted gay relations. PAP leaders talk about promoting family values forgetting that such traits are equally important and relevant as non-standard structures involving single and foster parents are increasing.
Meanwhile, our erstwhile “open” forms of entertainment expose us all to the lesbian gay and transgender lifestyles on television and in the cinemas. That environment is here with us to stay. Our broadcasters will have a nightmare if the government were to impose the restrictions of the ’70s (ban on Cosmopolitan, no publicity on extravagant and unconventional lifestyles…) today.
The question to ask is, for all the “bad influence” that TV and movies have exerted on us over the past 20 years, has our society gone down the toilet? And since when does an unaccountable lone voice objecting to the children’s book, And Three Makes Tango, succeed in getting the publication banned?
The Independent Singapore has been around for a year. We will continue to be a thorn in the flesh of those who believe media can be bent to its authoritarian will.
Singaporeans showed that they cannot be dismissed as dumb economic digits during the 2011 general election and the next polls will show whether lessons have been learnt.
An important sign will be the changes that the government will introduce to the Singapore Broadcasting Act. We await with great anxiety and some trepidation which way the government will go on this piece of legislation.
That will say whether this government has changed.