Singapore Media Watch

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Shame on the State Media's coverage of the JI militant's escape

The escape of a limping terrorist, Mas Selamat, who is the most dangerous man in Southeast Asia from a high-security detention centre this Thursday had dealt a major blow to the reputation of the Singapore Police Force and made us a laughing stock amongst our neighbors.

This was the biggest screw-up by the Singapore government since independence with serious ramifications for both Singapore and the region. It is not merely a security lapse, but a failure, an abject failure of the entire security apparatus in Singapore akin to the FBI's failure to pre-empt the 911 terrorist attack.

In other first world democracies, one would expect the Minister in charge to resign immediately to assume responsibility for such a disastrous mistake; the government to form an independent inquiry panel swiftly to investigate the matter and the media to provide a balanced, unbiased and even critical coverage of the entire hiatus.

Not so in Singapore where Mas Selamat's escape was revealed by the media only 3 hours (or maybe longer than that) after it took place almost in an nonchalant, business-like manner. The Home Affairs Minister, Mr Wong Kan Seng was half-grinning when he "apologize" for the "security lapse" in Parliament the next day and to further ameliorate the gravity of the situation, he proceed to assure the public that Selamat is not known to be a "public threat" as he was unarmed.

And this is a man who received training from the Jihadists in Afghanistans in the craft of bomb-making and guerilla warfare; who had plotted to bomb the American Embassy and to hijack a plane to crash into Changi Airport, a hardcore terrorist who will not hesitate to jeopardize the lives of innocent parties to achieve his goals. All of sudden, based on one word from our minister, the threat posed by him is completely neutralized.

The Straits Times' coverage of this matter has been completely shamelessly biased, one-sided and favored to the government which will certainly guranteed a further drop from its latest 141st ranking on Reporters Without Borders' ranking of the world's press freedom.

Let's take a look at the ST articles today:

1. Search for JI man goes to the grassroots: frontpage.

2. Community leaders help with search: home 6

3. Prank caller claims to be escaped terrorist: home 6

4. Police search leaves no stone unturned: home 7.

5. Illegal immigrant hiding in coach arrested: home 7.

6. Whitley Road area back to normal: home 7.

7. Posters and leaflets of fugitive helpful, say S'poreans: home 7.

8. Unlikely he's left coutnry, say security experts: home 7.

With a little spin, a massive catastrophe was turned into another publicity gimmick for the police force - illustrating how hard the security forces are working overtime to apprehend the fugitive, the situation being under control by the police, the return of normalcy, the support given by the community and most dangerously, the continued underestimation of the threat posted by Selamat.

Does the Straits Times editors serve the interests of the public or the government ? They have failed miserably in their role as an institution to reflect the sentiments of the people and to serve as a check on abuse of power by the executive arm of the government.

Without an independent media to expose mistakes in the administration, the government's self-proclaimed calls of transparency and accountability will forever be founded on shaky and hollow grounds. Do you trust the government to self-monitor and regulate itself ? Can we be sure that mistakes are not covered up and important leaders protected ?

In spite of the mounting criticism and calls for him to resign in cyberspace, Minister Wong should emerge from this boo-boo unscathed with the state media on his side and phoney opposition MPs in Parliament inflicted with a greater limp than Selamat himself who will never dare to even question him let alone ask for his resignation. We can be assured that the state media will continue to protray the Police Force in a positive manner with more letters from ghost writers pledging their support to appear in the ST Forum (there is already one today written by a 18-year old Indian lady titled "We should unite, rather than cast blame").

In the meantime Singaporeans should pray that Mas Selamat is caught sooner or later and if he was never to be found, to hope that either he drowned in the Straits of Singapore or somehow after all the "re-education" he received from the ISD, he had a change of heart and renounced violence forever.


  • It is expected of the state-controlled media. This event will definitely expose the government damage control machinery at work. It is just like the last GE.

    Even the article by P N Balji of Today DANGERS OF A BUNKER MENTALITY (dated March 3, 2008) may appear to be critical of the government. It looks mild. It is only published on a secondary newspaper. This is reactive to the ground sentiments. If the media is serious and critical about the government, they should do it in the national paper (ST) for all to read.

    If not, it is just about PR and marketing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:29 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home