I just returned from Singapore. It’s just so hi-tech, I really liked the fact you can get public wi-fi access just about everywhere – what’s more it’s free! If you use one of the T-Mobile Hotspots (in Starbucks etc) or BT Openzone (Costa etc) in the UK you end up paying upwards of £5 per hour. You have to be pretty desperate to access your Hotmail at these rates. Plus add in the cost of an over-priced Costa latte and it really starts to get expensive.
When it comes to the media, Channel NewsAsia, a low-budget equivalent of Sky News, is entertaining. But newspapers are tightly controlled.
SPH (Singapore Press Holdings), which is partially owned by the government, publishes The Straits Times, a quality broadsheet. However, if you’re seeking opinions critical of the government you’re unlikely to find them printed here.
I was around during the IMF meetings in September. The government had just banned a number of representatives from NGO’s from entering the country – fearing they may take part in demonstrations. If the UK government pulled a trick like this there would be public outrage. Not so in Singapore. It seemed like the writers at the Singapore Times couldn’t wait to publish fawning articles supporting the government’s draconian stance.
The other main newspaper, The New Paper, a tabloid from SPH (SPH owns just about everything!), is terrible. It doesn’t really discuss politics, so censorship is not really a problem. Instead readers are fed a daily diet of grizzly suicides and crime stories. By English standards the writing is appalling. ‘News’ articles are written in a chatty feature style. The main point of the story is normally buried deep in the article.
Whilst The Straits Times has numerous pages devoted to world events, little is said about domestic politics. When comment is made, the stance frequently supports the government line. I’m not sure how healthy this is.
The government would say that their number one aim is to ensure political and social stability. Let’s face it, the majority seem to be quite happy.