It is a crying shame that we Singaporeans have to resort to reading overseas media reports to get the full impact of the protest held at Hong Lim Park yesterday. The international media including the BBC News,Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Aljazeera, Bloomberg, Reuters, Jakarta Post and South China Morning Post (SCMP) all gave very substantial coverage to the event which will surely go down in our history as a significant milestone. Several of the foreign press noted that this was an important and rare protest in our tightly-controlled country of docile beings. Hongkong’s SCMP even reported it on their front page! (Click on all the hyperlinks to read those reports)
The Feb 16 protest was Singapore’s biggest public protest since its independence as it drew an estimated 5,000 attendees. And it would likely have been more if it weren’t for the rainy weather. It was a day when thousands of Singaporeans of all races shed their fears of the government and stood together to protest openly against the White Paper proposal to up our population to 6.9 million by importing loads more foreigners.
The protest showed the world that it is not just the online world that is upset as claimed by our government . It showed the depth of the sorrow, pain and anger of the citizens of Singapore at the preposterous idea of being reduced to a possible minority in their own country in the not too distant future. The protest put a face to the so-called “noise” a dismissive term used by the PAP to describe its critics. And the “faces” that we saw were represented by Singaporean men and women of all ages, races and religions.
Despite its historical significance, our local media downplayed the news. If they had their way, they would not even have reported it at all. But they couldn’t avoid it simply because the rest of the world media was reporting on the event. It was definitely a front page local news story but no, the leading newspaper Straits Times felt it was best to tuck it away on Page 4 with a shallow report that did not do justice to the event and the cause. Ok so there was a blurb on front page masthead but it was so tiny and had a photo so small that you had to hold it close and squint to see the pix contents.
As for The New Paper, it delivered the ultimate insult by reducing its report on the protest to just a mere photo caption, an honour reserved only for news deemed as un-newsworthy. Today’s TNP carried a followup report on the event but it skewed it in a negative way by focusing on and quoting ESM Goh Chok Tong as saying on his Facebook that he doesn’t “think much of the speakers’ rhetoric. Too political, too one-sided, appealing to emotions only and not shedding light on important issues”. (To this, we could say the same about the White Paper btw – it was too political, too one-sided about GDP and foreigners, too unemotional about Singaporeans and not shedding enough light on important data and facts.)
TNP’s second report also tried to downplay the event again by referring to the crowd size as “estimated to be anything between 1,000 and 5,000…” What kind of sloppy journalism is that, to use outdated estimates when they should have been there to report on the event and where there are lots of photos of the large crowd as evidence. Too lazy to do their own sums or simply too biased and intent on writing a negative report TNP? For more evidence of bias, count the number of paragraphs given to both reports – The negative story angled on Goh received seven paras while yesterday’s coverage of the protest had ONE short photo caption. ‘Nuff said.
To the editors at Singapore Press Holdings and MediaCorp. I know your hands are literally chained by the government but I hope you had at least tried your best to fight for more worthy coverage. You know deep down this was a newsworthy historical event. By giving it shallow coverage, you have a) set a lousy example to your journos as an editor and shown how your journalistic integrity was compromised b) done your readers a great disservice and c) failed your fellow citizens and your country.
I hope you and your conscience sleep well at night.