I wonder what editors will make of this in Singapore and India. Apparently their readers are not so keen on a free press.
The majority of Singaporeans feel they don’t have a free press and don’t have a high opinion of the local media but are not pressing for a change.
Most Indians, on the other hand, think they have a free press which reports the news fairly accurately but that’s not so important to them.
Russia is the only other country where freedom of the press is not so important to the majority, according to a BBC survey.
What matters more in all three countries is peace and stability. They don’t want the truth and nothing but the truth if it disrupts peace and stability.
The BBC surveyed more than 11,000 people in 14 countries In Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. It reported:
Of those interviewed, 56 percent thought freedom of the press was very important to ensure a free society. But 40 percent said it was more important to maintain social harmony and peace, even if it meant curbing the press’ freedom to report news truthfully.
Though the majority wanted a free press, it’s significant how narrow the majority was in several countries. Only 52 percent in Brazil and 51 percent in Mexico and the United Emirates considered a free press important.
Only 43 percent in Singapore and 41 percent in India thought a free press important, which mattered least in Russia (39 percent).
A free press matters far more in the US (70 percent), Britain (67 percent), Germany (67 percent), Venezuela (64 percent), South Africa (63 percent), Kenya (62 percent), Nigeria (56 percent) and Egypt (55 percent).
Freedom of the press has always mattered in the West, no surprise there. And Venezuelans perhaps feel the same need because they are still new to socialism. Hugo Chavez has not yet completed a decade in power and so hasn’t been able to stamp out all opposition, which won the recent referendum.
Singapore and India
Singapore leaders, on the other hand, will feel vindicated by the survey. Those who complain about lack of press freedom will now have to accept that it’s not high on the wish list of the majority who agree with the government that it’s more important to have peace and harmony.
Russia, of course, has no tradition of press freedom.
The real surprise is India. Peace and harmony matters more than a free press to the majority, and yet when Indira Gandhi clamped down on the press and the opposition during the Emergency in 1975, she lost the subsequent election in 1977 by a landslide. No subsequent leader has been able to dominate the political landscape, a clear indication of the diversity of Indian voters. They are unlikely to give any party the kind of support Indira Gandhi enjoyed before she imposed the Emergency. So the press is likely to remain free.
What makes the Indian attitude all the more surprising is the high marks Indians give to the media. The privately owned news organisations are doing a good job, according to 64 percent of the respondents, and so is the official media, according to 57 percent. That’s a big leap for All India Radio, which used to be called All Indira Radio, and the national TV network, Doordarshan, which used to be pretty much Indira Darshan when she was in power.
In Singapore, the official media is trusted more than private counterparts. The official media is doing a good job, according to 42 percent, but the private media gets the thumbs up from only 32 per cent.
One question: Is there any mainstream private media in Singapore? Isn’t Singapore Press Holdings enmeshed in various crossholdings with the government-linked MediaCorp?