Singapore – Straits Times Decreasing Traffic

Found On Singapore Election
When The Straits Times started charging for access all those years ago it was the wrong move. Why pay to access the reporting of a mass media outlet that is ranked either 147th or 154th in the world depending on your ranking source. The paper is losing revenue as are so many other newspapers around the world. The 20 – 30 generation are going online to get news that matters to them. Not news filtered by a process of ‘self-censorship’ or by a regime that demands control over all that is written.

Simply no longer charging visitors to view your advertisements and state-controlled press releases is not going to turn the fortunes of the ST around over night. Trying to isolate yourself from the global market of media and cultural production by charging your readers and hoping that they show loyalty to you was mis-guided. But until the Straits Times journalists are able to compete on the global playing-field without the dead-weight of self-censorship and state control – all the technology in the world will not alter the image of the Straits Times as a state owned and controlled propaganda outlet.

FROM Tuesday, visitors to The Straits Times’ (ST) website will not have to pay to read the latest breaking news from Singapore and the world.

They can also post their views – in real time – on the reports they read.

One other major change: The site will drop its 12-year-old name, The Straits Times Interactive, or STI, and go with the cleaner ‘’.

Since becoming a subscription site in 2005, it has been offering only a small buffet of material for free:

1. ST’s online forum letters;
2. Multimedia features, such as video news reports and podcasts;
3. A restricted selection of 20 reports from the print edition.

All other content, including breaking news and material picked up from the print edition of the newspaper itself, has been available only to subscribers in the past two years.

Explaining the move to open up more free-access content, ST editor Han Fook Kwang said: ‘There’s a great deal more we can do in the website to leverage on the award-winning talent in The Straits Times newsroom of writers, photographers, artists and designers. I think we’ve a good product and we want to make it available to more people in cyberspace, and to use the technology available on the web to make it an even better product.’
Here is the real reason ….


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Singapore’s media ranked 154th


In advance of World Press Freedom Day, on May 3rd, Freedom House has released several critical tools to highlight data from its annual survey of global press freedom, and to help explain the newest findings in their historical context. The current edition of the survey, Freedom of the Press 2007, points to improvements in several countries such as Italy, Nepal, Colombia, and Haiti; however, it shows mixed trends in Africa, as well as a continuation of a longer-term pattern of decline in press freedom in Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union.

Freedom House
04 May 07

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 24
Political Environment: 24
Economic Environment: 21
Total Score: 69

Media freedom in Singapore is constrained to such a degree that the vast majority of journalists practice self-censorship rather than risk being charged with defamation or breaking the country’s criminal laws on permissible speech.

The Singapore constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression in Article 14, but it also permits restrictions on these rights. Media freedom in Singapore is constrained by the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act, the Defamation Act, and the Internal Security Act, all of which allow authorities to restrict the circulation of news deemed to incite violence, arouse racial or religious tensions, interfere in domestic politics, or threaten public order, national interest or national security.

The government proposed a series of amendments to the Penal Code in 2006 that would cover offenses committed via electronic media. The draft amendments would not only provide jail terms or fines for defamation, “statements that would cause public mischief,” and the “wounding” of racial or religious feeling, they would also make it a crime for anyone outside the country to abet an offense committed inside the country, thereby allowing the authorities to prosecute internet users living abroad. Singaporean students studying overseas are the presumed targets of this amendment.

The Singapore government is quick to sue critics under harsh criminal defamation laws. In May 2006, for example, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, First Minister Kee Kuan Yew, filed criminal charges against the publishers of opposition newspaper The New Democrat, which is published several times a year by a committee of the Singapore Democratic Party.

The lawsuit started with an unsigned story that described as “secretive and non-accountable” the ruling party’s handling of a corruption scandal at the National Kidney Foundation.

Foreign media in Singapore are also subject to restrictive laws. In August, after the Far Eastern Economic Review published an interview with opposition party leader Chee Soon Juan, FEER and four other foreign publications were advised that they needed to post bonds and appoint legal representatives in order to continue to operate in Singapore. When FEER did not comply, its circulation permit was revoked, thereby effectively banning the publication. Meanwhile, on September 14, the Prime Minister and his father filed defamation suits against FEER over the article.

Nearly all print and broadcast media outlets, internet service providers, and cable television services are either owned or controlled by the state, or by companies with close ties to the ruling party. Annual licensing requirements for all media outlets, including political and religious web sites, have been used to inhibit criticism of the government.

Approximately two thirds of the population had access to the internet in 2006. Nonetheless, the government restricts internet access and Singapore has zero-tolerance for bloggers who challenge the government in any way. Prior to the May 6 Parliamentary elections, the Communications and Arts Minister warned bloggers and website managers that they do not have the right to back a particular candidate’s program or to express opinions on political issues. These same rules were applied to other new media, including podcasting and videocasting.

On April 26, the opposition Singapore Democratic Party was ordered to withdraw a podcast from its website. In June, popular blogger Lee Kin Mun (aka “Mr Brown”) was informed by state-owned Today newspaper that his weekly column, which had satirized the high cost of living, would be suspended. On November 6, a judge ordered Yap Keng Ho, a member of the opposition, to remove from his blog a video of himself speaking in public during the general elections.

Cote d’Ivoire 68 NF
Malaysia 68 NF
Maldives 68 NF
United Arab Emirates 68 NF
Afghanistan 69 NF
Djibouti 69 NF
Gabon 69 NF
Singapore 69 NF
158 Iraq 70 NF
159 Bahrain 71 NF
Oman 71 NF
161 Chad 74 NF
Togo 74 NF
Venezuela 74 NF

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Singapore – Government urged to lift ban on film about journalist imprisoned for 17 years

Reporters Without Borders today called on the Singaporean government to reverse its decision to ban director Martyn See’s documentary “Zahari’s 17 years,” about former journalist and dissident Said Zahari’s 17 years in detention for defending press freedom in Singapore.

“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s government has used an archaic film law to impose another authoritarian measure violating press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The ban on See’s film must be lifted. This act of censorship is all the more inappropriate and ridiculous as his films are available on websites such as YouTube and GoogleVideo. We call for the liberalisation of the censorship and internal security laws that deprive Singaporeans of an environment favourable to free speech.”

Since 12 April, anyone suspected of possessing or disseminating a copy of “Zahari’s 17 years” can be sentenced to two yeas in prison and a heavy fine. See was forced to surrender all of his own copies of the documentary to the ministry of information, communication and arts on 11 April.

The film consists of a 49-minute interview with Said, the former editor of the newspaper Utusan Melayu, about the reasons he and several colleagues were arrested under a draconian internal security law in 1963, when the government was headed by the current prime minister’s father. Two years before his arrest, Said led a strike by the staff of Utusan Melayu in protest against the government’s takeover of the newspaper.

In a letter sent to See’s home on 10 April, the information ministry notified him that the documentary was being banned under article 35 (1) of the Film Act because the authorities would “not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the government.” The documentary could “undermine public confidence in the government,” the letter added.

The documentary can be viewed at

You can keep up to date with Martyn See’s situation by visiting his blog here.

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No homosexual movie to be shown at Singapore film festival

From Pravda

Sex scenes showing the homosexual relationships between teacher and his 18-years-old student became the reason to remove movie from a local Singaporean film festival after government censors said sex scenes from the film had to be cut.

Organizers of the Singapore International Film Festival and producers of “Solos” said Monday the film would be withdrawn from public screening in line with the festival’s policy of only showing uncensored films.

The festival opened April 18 and runs through April 30. “Solos” was originally scheduled to be screened on Wednesday.

The film received an R21 rating – which restricts it to audiences over age 21 – with three cuts from the Singapore Board of Film Censors, said Florence Ang, the film’s producer.

The board said in a statement that the film contained “prolonged and explicit homosexual lovemaking scenes including scenes of oral sex and threesome sex” which had to be removed.

The cuts make up about five minutes of the 77-minute film, Ang said.

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Danish animated film withdrawn from Singapore film festival

Princess trailer

Apr 16, 2007, 11:17 GMT

Singapore – The Danish animated film Princess has been withdrawn from the Singapore International Film Festival after censors ruled that it denigrated a religious symbol, a cross, organizers said Monday.

The production, the first animated feature from Danish director Anders Morgenthaler, focuses on a missionary priest who seeks to erase his dead sister’s past as a porn star. It had been selected to open the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

The Board of Film Censors said it contained a scene in which ‘a cross is displayed in an objectionable way’ in the lower half of the body of a woman in a nun’s habit.[00:50 secs. in trailer]

Board guidelines prohibit ‘films with content denigrating a religion or a religious symbol.’

Solos, a Singapore production, was also found objectionable. The board said it contained ‘prolonged and explicit homosexual lovemaking scenes, including scenes of oral sex and threesome sex.’

It was one of 11 films selected to participate in the competition for the festival’s Silver Screen Award for best Asian feature.

Hundreds of films are scheduled to be shown during the festival starting this week. While firms are regularly shown in Singapore with cuts of scenes and language, the festival only shows uncut productions.


Due to his sister’s death, the 32 year old August returns and consequently abandons his profession as a missionary priest. His beloved sister Christina, who went from greatness to decay as the famous porn-star The Princess, is dead after years of drug abuse. She leaves behind her 5-year old daughter Mia, whom August feels obliged to take care of. Weighed down by grief and guilt he decides to revenge the dead of Christina – and takes Mia on a mission to destroy all existing pornographic material featuring The Princess. The mission escalates into a brutal and violent rout, where August is desperately trying to protect the only precious thing in his life, Mia, why he is forced to make a fatal decision. Written by Martin Stoltenborg Christensen

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Singapore bans film about ex-political detainee

medium_said.jpgExtract below from Pravda.

Filmmaker Martyn See, who was under investigation last year for a documentary about an opposition leader, said he was surprised by the ban. He said the film, produced at the end of 2005, had been approved twice last year with a PG rating. When it was not shown at the 2006 Singapore International Film Festival, as he expected, See applied for an exhibition license to screen it publicly.

“I don’t know what changed. Maybe different people with different views watched it this time,” See told The Associated Press. “I based my questions to Said on his first book [Dark clouds at dawn: A political memoir], which is sold in Singapore. So what is in the film is not something the government didn’t know.”

He said he had been ordered by the censorship board to surrender all copies of the film by Wednesday afternoon.

See said that Said is the only one of those detained in the 1960s under the Internal Security Act who is willing to speak publicly about his experience.

“I wanted to show another side of Singapore’s history,” See said of his reason for making the film.

Said Zahari’s 17 Years Trailer

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore is banning a film about a former political detainee held for 17 years without trial, the government said.

The film “Zahari’s 17 Years” about former journalist Said Zahari — arrested in 1963 for suspected subversive political activities, including communist sympathies — will be banned because it is “against public interests,” the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts said on Tuesday.

“The film gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Said Zahari’s arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Zahari’s 17 Years” is directed by Singapore film director Martyn See, who had several run-ins with the Singapore police last year after he produced a documentary about opposition leader Chee Soon Juan in 2005.

Singapore, frequently criticized by human rights groups for its restrictions on the opposition and media, bans political films that contain “biased references to or comments on any political matter.”

The Ministry said “Zahari’s 17 Years” was an attempt by Zahari “to exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist united front activities against the interests of Singapore.”

“The government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the government,” the ministry said, adding that this may “undermine public confidence in the government.”

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The Queer Sensibilities of Singapore’s Wordscape

From Xenoboy in Singapore

The media is in overdrive. Spinning and spinning. Telling us the reasons why we have to pay 55% more to the Ministers and the top civil servants, of that stream known as the Administrative Service. No one expects an objection from the media. But not even a “concern” has been raised this time.

Instead, its a monopolistic narrative that calls upon the hallowed traditions of the Singapore Wordscape. The sense of crisis, of siege that will soon befall the Government if they are not paid more. That there will be a vacuum in Government. That the talent will leave or will not come. And without the talent, the Government suffers. And if the Government suffers, Singapore suffers. And if Singapore suffers, the Singaporeans suffer most of all.

This sense of impending doom, of competitiveness, that forces the Government to review salaries, forces them to accept the ignonimity of accepting 55% more money. It almost makes this salary review become noble. A form of noble-ness that is almost surreal. It is a review that becomes a ceremonial sacrifice by these talents to accept this necessary money. It is for the sake of Singapore that they make this sacrifice. Ultimately. It is for the good of Singapore. They take this 55% not because they need it, $290 is enough after all, but because the survival of Singapore needs them to accept this. So the narrative rolls across the Singapore Wordscape.

And the citizens look on, listening to and watching as this narrative embraces the Singapore Wordscape. Formulating their indignations, their counter-narratives, mostly in silence. Forming words, mostly in silence. Only in new media does dissonance surface. That this narrative, flattening the Singapore Wordscape with its moral loud-hailing, is perhaps only one side of the picture, one side of the fence, one level above in the hierarchy of political meanings in Singapore. But it is new media after all, where lies and truths are enmeshed in an adulterous embrace.

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