Written by Fann Sim
(I am by no means an expert on Singapore’s political scene and here’s my humble opinion)
New WikiLeaks cables released on 30 August revealed that Singapore’s main broadsheet The Straits Times were vetted to follow Singapore’s government line.
Initially when I heard this news from my boss, I honestly wasn’t surprised but I am shocked that someone from ST has talked about it. I mean, we’ve always heard that Straits Times is biased, Straits Times is one-sided but we haven’t actually seen any real accounts or evidence that supports that.
When I read the document, a question popped up in my mind.
If this WikiLeaks document was released just a few days earlier, would it have affected the Presidential Election results?
So in this document, Straits Times’s senior reporter Chua Chin Hon who’s currently the US bureau chief revealed in the document that there is an “increasing disconnect” between the reporters and editors in Straits Times because of “the reporters wanting to do more investigative and critical stories than the editors will allow.”
In the document Chua also admitted that in the past, ST editors had to contend only with the opinions of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and former Deputy Prime Minster Goh Chok Tong (now Emeritus Senior Minister).
The document also states: “However, a younger generation of government ministers is now vying for future leadership positions and one way for them to burnish their credentials with the old guard is to show they can be tough with the media. As a result, several current ministers and second ministers routinely call ST editors to ensure that media coverage of an issue comes out the way they want it.”
Let me tell you why the document has the potential to adversely change the results.
Let’s not forget that Straits Times is owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).
And who runs SPH?
Our newly sworn-in, freshly minted, two-day-old President Tony Tan.
Dr Tony Tan ran SPH as Director from 2005 to July 2011. The cable indicated that the document was created in 2009, the same time when Dr Tony Tan ran as director. So all this was happening right under the very nose that his heavy black-frame glasses was resting on?
If this cable was released earlier, say when Dr Tony Tan was campaigning for Presidency, people’s might have taken into account this piece of news when they decide who they are voting for President.
They say the May General Election was a watershed election. People are starting to question the authority. They’ve started to question the information they are receiving and information source.
More and more people are demanding fair and objective news that is said to be absent in Singapore’s media scene. So if this cable had come along earlier, how could it not affect the Presidential Election results?
It might make a difference to Tan Cheng Bock’s votes as he lost so narrowly by 0.34 per cent or 7,382 votes. It might make a difference to the entire nation, the very people the President is supposed to look after.
And so aptly, Tan Cheng Bock’s guiding principles that he was campaigning were: “If something is wrong, I will tell you.”