SINGAPORE: A Redditor recently raised concerns about the removal of an article by the Singapore media outlet TODAY.
This article initially covered a survey ranking Singapore as one of the world’s most expensive cities, prompting suspicions of self-censorship.
Last Thursday (30 Nov), a survey published by The Economist magazine indicated that Zurich and Singapore are the most expensive cities in the world ahead of New York amid the ever-rising cost of living.
International media, including Bloomberg, Reuters, South China Morning Post, and others have widely reported the news.
Mainstream media included responses from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) of Singapore, wherein the MTI defended the survey’s accuracy in reflecting the cost of living for Singaporeans.
However, TODAY, a Singaporean English-language digital news provider under Mediacorp, initially reported on the survey but subsequently removed the article from its online portal.
A Reddit post discussing this removal gained significant attention and engagement among users.
Last Thursday, a Reddit post shared TODAY’s news link. However, clicking on the link only directed users to TODAY’s official page, signalling that the original post was no longer accessible or available on the site.
The Redditor who spotted the strange missing article from TODAY argued that while international outlets and smaller local outlets including Business Times, New Paper and AsiaOne reported on the ranking, there is nothing from ST either, despite ST having reported on the ranking in previous years.
The Redditor raised inquiries about TODAY’s decision to remove the article on the world’s costliest city ranking and also questioned ST’s choice not to report on this year’s ranking.
Upon checking archived versions of news articles, it was discovered that the original news report on TODAY, titled “Zurich, Singapore world’s most expensive cities: The Economist,” was initially reported by AFP.
The archived piece, saved on 2 December, indicated that the article existed at least until that date.
The reasons behind TODAY’s removal of the article remain unknown. Gutzy Asia has reached out to the media outlet seeking clarification on this matter, with a pending response from them.
Concerns over self-censorship
Notably, discussions on Reddit revealed certain netizens questioning whether the removal of the article was a form of self-censorship, particularly as anticipation grows regarding a potential early General Election in 2024.
One Redditor highlighted an observation that local media typically report on rankings published by various organizations without hesitation.
However, in this case, there seemed to be a deliberate decision to censor this particular article, despite Singapore’s rankings not changing from the last time such information was published.
Another comment speculated that perhaps the report’s content might contradict the narrative of costs being under control, prompting its removal.
Additionally, there were suspicions that the speculation of an upcoming election in the next year could be a reason behind the silent “censorship” of the article.
Grip on Singapore’s online expression and media censorship
In August, the CIVICUS Monitor, a respected global research collaboration evaluating civil society across 197 countries and territories, expressed grave concerns about Singapore’s civic space.
The latest update from the CIVICUS Monitor paints a troubling picture of the state of freedom of expression and civil liberties in Singapore.
Notably, The Online Citizen (TOC) was classified as a ‘Declared Online Location’ under the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) in July 2023.
Furthermore, correction orders and directives under POFMA were issued to digital magazine Jom, activist group Transformative Justice Collective (TJC), as well as political figures like Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Thamil Selvan, and even Lee Hsien Yang.
It emphasizes the challenges faced by individuals, media entities, and organizations in navigating a landscape increasingly characterized by stringent regulations and legal actions.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Singapore’s 2023 press freedom index is 47.88, with a rank of 129 out of 180 countries.
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