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MCI issues warning to Economist’s Bureau Chief over alleged “interference in Singapore’s domestic politics”

The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has issued a warning to Mr. Dominic Ziegler, The Economist’s Singapore bureau chief, for alleged interference in domestic politics.

The action followed Ziegler’s endorsement of the local online publication “Jom” on 25 August.



SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) has issued a warning to Mr Dominic Ziegler, who is bureau chief for The Economist in Singapore, over “actions that constituted interference in our domestic politics”.

The ministry said in a statement on Friday (8 Sept) that it had also expressed its “clear expectation” to Mr Ziegler that he not do so again.

The Ministry’s announcement stemmed from an incident on 25 August when Ziegler publicly endorsed a local online publication called “Jom.”

“He compared Singapore to an illiberal state, and encouraged Singaporeans to embrace an alternative vision, instead of what was being offered by the state and an allegedly captive media.”

MCI claims Ziegler’s action “crossed the line”

MCI claimed that Ziegler’s action “clearly crossed the line from reporting on Singapore to participating in Singapore’s domestic affairs.”

The Ministry further criticized Ziegler for exploiting his status as a journalist affiliated with a prestigious international publication to advocate his viewpoint on Singaporean domestic politics, despite not being a citizen of the country.

“It is longstanding Government policy that such foreign interference in our domestic politics will not be tolerated. Singapore politics is reserved only for Singaporeans.”

“Foreign correspondents are free to report and comment on Singapore in their respective publications for a global audience. Ziegler himself has done so regularly.”

While emphasizing that foreign correspondents are welcome to report and comment on Singapore for global audiences, the Singapore government clarified its position.

It asserted its right to reply to “correct foreign reports that it considers inaccurate or biased,” but stressed that it “does not prevent foreign correspondents from engaging anyone they wish here and reporting on Singapore in any way they think fit.”

MCI acknowledged that many foreign correspondents and media outlets base themselves in Singapore, and The Economist itself has expanded its bureau here in recent years, transferring many of its correspondents previously based elsewhere in the region to Singapore.

“It would not have done so if it did not find Singapore a suitable base for its correspondents.”

MCI said they continue to welcome foreign correspondents and media outlets to operate out of and report on Singapore, including The Economist.

“However, they must comply with our laws and must not interfere in our domestic politics.”

Ziegler, known for his Asia-focused Banyan column in the British weekly, made statements in a 25 August advertisement for Jom.

He emphasized the importance of independent media support globally, especially in illiberal states, and contrasted them with “captive media.” Ziegler also commended Jom for presenting alternative visions of Singapore.

High Court dismisses Jom’s appeals against POFMA’s correction directions on 6 September

Jom is described on its website as a weekly magazine dedicated to Singapore. The publication was co-founded by Charmaine Poh, Tsen-Waye Tay, and Sudhir Vadaketh.

On Wednesday (6 Sept), The High Court dismissed appeals by The Inquiry Pte Ltd (TIPL), the operator of Jom, against two correction directions (CDs) it received in July under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).

The directions were issued after Jom released a “weekly digest” concerning the rental of bungalows on Ridout Road rented by two Cabinet ministers.

Ziegler earlier questions PAP government’s accountability and advocates external oversight

Notably, Mr. Ziegler authored another article for The Economist, titled “A Slew of Scandals Puts Singapore’s Government on the Back Foot.”

In this piece, he underscored the widespread dismay among Singaporeans regarding the ruling party PAP, shedding light on the challenges and controversies confronting the government.

These issues have raised significant questions concerning transparency, accountability, and the imperative for external oversight within the political system.

Within his article, Ziegler addressed the arrest of Singapore’s Transport Minister, S. Iswaran, in July, currently under investigation by The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB). He raised questions regarding the delayed announcement of S. Iswaran’s arrest, despite claims of a swift government response.

Ziegler delved into the departure of Parliament’s speaker, Tan Chuan-Jin, who faced criticism for using explicit language toward an opposition member. This incident, as Ziegler suggested, revealed partisan undertones in a supposedly impartial role.

Mr Ziegler highlights public resentment over the case involving Home and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan renting colonial-era homes from the land authority Shanmugam oversees.

Although investigations found no wrongdoing, public perception and optics matter, especially in a tightly regulated political landscape.

Furthermore, Ziegler proposed that Singapore’s political model, reliant on internal checks and balances, might benefit from external oversight to ensure transparency and accountability.

He argued for the establishment of a fully independent body responsible for conducting reviews, aiming to address public concerns and foster trust.

Silence from Singapore government as ‘Critical Spectator’ blog fuels controversy

While MCI has issued a strong statement on Mr Ziegler, there has been no official statement from the Singaporean government regarding the posts and endorsements made by the foreign blogger known as ‘Critical Spectator’ concerning the ruling party.

The Polish blogger frequently takes a hardline supportive stance on the Government and some of these posts are occasionally shared by Madam Ho Ching, the former CEO of Temasek and the spouse of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

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mci, Thanks for the free advertisement for Jom using our taxpayers money! Now I’m going on to visit Jom and spread the word on Jom to every mother’s sons and daughters!

mci itself crossed the line and double confirmed itself as “Singapore to an illiberal state” byacting against the endorsement of Jom, threatening and even banning foreign endorsement of Singapore interests groups. Didn’t nas daily and the polish CS cross the lines frequently commenting on and endorsing Singapore internal politics??? Have you warned CS and nas the arab foreigner for interfering in local politics? Why your damned hypocrisy?!

Thin skinned as ever! Easily slighted, fragile reputation, kao pei kao boo when people criticise you, sue sue sue, defamation defamation defamation, these civil or evil serpents got so much free time ah? Pinky criticised the US and other countries internal politics all the time. Why don’t you warn pinky?

Calling out this self~serving, grossly entitled and unaccountable government, … is deemed as interference in SillyPore’s domestic politics !!!

So be it then, … let there be more interferences, much much more pleaseeeee !!!

Hear only the good news, sure sign of state-propaganda.

Can the MCI issue statements about “Nas Daily” and “Critical Spectator” on interfering with Singapore’s “Domestic politics”? Or does the MCI specialise in selective outrage?

Seems like Nas Daily interfered in local politics it’s okay but the moment foreigners disagreed with the Establishment, then it’s seriously interfering.

Okay, head the Establishment win, tail we loss

Seems like change is impossible relying on local singaporeans. But External Forces any good?

As long as foreign media is pro PAP, it is okay. The minute, the foreign media disagrees, it will be termed as interference. However FACEBOOK which is American owned is extensively used by the PAP.