ST Oct 5, 2008The article is very interesting because it is NOT really by the Straits Times. Instead it's an AFP story reproduced by the Straits Times. ("AFP" stands for Agence-France Press, a global news agency)
Students protest uni censorship
A GROUP of students staged a protest in Singapore on Sunday against their university's censorship of a campus newspaper article.
Fronted by a black banner with the slogan 'Responsible Press For Students,' the four protesters made speeches in front of about 40 students at a park designated for limited free speech and demonstrations.
The four were protesting against the decision by the Nanyang Technological University to pull the plug on a recent article about the visit in August of secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party, Chee Soon Juan, to the campus.
'Let us again be reminded that this incident is not about Dr Chee's visit but rather about the censorship of the news... We are proposing responsible editorial independence,' Scott Teng, one of the four, said in his speech.
Mr Teng said the article was initially given the go-ahead to be published in the campus newspaper last month before being axed suddenly.
It was about Mr Chee's visit to the school and carried nothing about his political views, he added. According to Mr Teng, the university's reason for axing the article was they did not want the campus newspaper 'to be used as a platform for unsolicited guests to air their views'. -- AFP
The ST does regularly use articles from international news agencies like Reuters, AFP, AP and Bloomberg. However, these articles are usually about foreign events happening in other countries. Typically, the ST would not rely on the foreign media for reports on events happening on our very own little island.
However, here we have a protest in Singapore, held at Hong Lim Park. The event is organised by students from a local university, and concerns an editorial decision about an article, which itself is about a very local event - Chee Soon Juan's speech at a local educational institution. It is a highly local story.
And yet the ST did not cover the story itself. It did not assign any reporter to interview the students or NTU or Chee Soon Juan. It did not even send a photographer to take any of its own photos of the event (the photo I reproduced above is an AFP photo).
Why? We can make a few guesses.
Which theory do you prefer?
(1) The ST is incompetent at sniffing out newsworthy events. It found out about this particular event only after it had happened, and had to purchase the article from AFP, instead of sending its own journalist to cover the event.
(2) The ST knew about the event. However, in the same way that NTU had been nervous about publishing the article about Chee's speech, the Straits Times was nervous about doing its own report, about a protest concerning that matter.
In other words, the ST decided that it was too politically risky to report the event itself. If the ST published the "wrong" things in its article, it might attract a reprimand from the Singapore government, for crossing the line. It would be much safer to just reproduce a foreign agency's report.
(3) The ST had deliberately chosen not to report this event. It intentionally decided not to publicise this particular matter concerning a protest about censorship in Singapore. However, after AFP broke the story, the ST felt that for the sake of its credibility, it could not pretend that the event had not happened. Therefore the ST quickly purchased the article from AFP and published it here in Singapore.