PEC urges Singapore government to withdraw blockade on Asia Sentinel

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Geneva, June 24: Press Emblem Campaign, the global media safety and rights body, while expressing its concern over the blockage on Asia Sentinel, an independent online media outlets focusing on Asian news coverage, urges the Singapore government (precisely the interior minister K. Shanmugam) to withdraw the ban immediately and unconditionally. ‘Access to Asia Sentinel’s website has apparently been blocked in Singapore by the country’s Ministry of Communications and Information, according to local media, after we refused to comply with an order to correct a May 24, 2023 article concerning the use of government power against dissenters,’ said the media outlets on 3 June. It also added,
‘Asia Sentinel cited statements confirming the veracity of our reporting. The government demanded that Asia Sentinel carry the correction at the top of our website for 30 days, which we refused to do.’

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Currently Asia Sentinel remains inaccessible throughout the city state due to the government diktats. The development started with a piece titled ‘Singapore Kills a Chicken to Scare the Monkeys’, which was uploaded on 24 May, where the Singapore government’s inherent pressure on the media was criticized.

“It’s very unfortunate that the Singapore government wants to read only favourable stories about them and it has seemingly decided to reject all kinds of critical journalism. The concerned ministry should
withdraw the arrogant approach to the acclaimed media outlet and allow its access to the interested Singaporian nationals,” said Blaise Lempen, president of PEC (www.pressemblem.ch).

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Asia Sentinel was created to provide a platform for news, analysis, and opinion on national and regional issues in Asia and it’s independent of all governments and major media enterprises. It has twice won the top award for investigative and interpretive reporting from the Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) and it’s highly respected in the business, economics and diplomatic communities across the region.

Singapore’s home affairs minister Shanmugam issued a statement threatening to take stern action against Asia Sentinel under a new law on ‘online falsehoods and manipulation’, which has been used by the government to tame the press, critics & political opponents. Asia Sentinel made a correction post on the concerned piece. Although the media outlet posted the Singapore government’s demand, it stood by the story.

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Speaking to PEC’s south & southeast Asia representative Nava Thakuria, veteran journalist and Asia Sentinel’s editor John Berthelsen informed that the blockage has definitely denied general Singaporean
readers to access its website, but it’s published on the Substack platform as a newsletter (meaning it’s available in email accounts).

(Nava Thakuria is a senior Indian journalist who contributes to various media outlets including print and digital platforms of India and across the world)

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