Monday, May 18, 2009


Zul Othman,

THE daily coverage by selected media of the month-long leadership tussle at Aware was, in the words of Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, “extensive” and “breathless”. However, he also found some of the coverage “excessive” and “not sufficiently balanced”.

In response to questions from Today regarding the coverage by selected media during the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) saga, Mr Wong said that although there were important issues to be addressed - such as the proper limits for religious activism - it was “surely not the most important challenge facing Singapore”.

“Whatever happened in Aware was not going to change Singapore or the Government’s social policy,” said Mr Wong, who is also the Home Affairs Minister.

Mr Wong said the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts had analysed the objectivity of the coverage of the Aware episode and “found it wanting in some respects”. Mica has given its feedback to the relevant editors.

Singapore Management University Assistant Professor Eugene Tan said that “it was possible” that some reporters “were caught up” in the month-long Aware drama that began on March 28 after a team of newcomers seized nine out 12 positions on its exco.

“Perhaps, it a natural reaction because of their (reporters’) own personal views. Still, this is when professionalism comes in - to separate personal views so one can report on the events objectively,” he said. These views, Asst Prof Tan said, led to reports that polarised public opinion.

Some felt that selected media had adopted a very liberal attitude and denounced the Old Guard exco’s strong views on homosexuality.

But gays and their supporters might have felt that “the papers did not come down hard enough on what was perceived as a religion coming into a secular space”, Asst Prof Tan added.

In his email interview with Today, Mr Wong warned against the importing of “culture wars between the extreme liberals and conservatives” common in countries, such as the United States.

To ensure that Singapore remains a “communally peaceful society”, there is a need to observe “the rules of engagement”, Mr Wong said. This also applies to the media - when reporting on the issues, journalists should do it “dispassionately and impartially”.

As for those who participate in the Internet, Mr Wong said: “Ultimately, he remains no less accountable for the consequences of his actions in cyberspace as he does in the physical world”.

From TODAY, News; Friday, 15-May-2009

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