Ever since Singapore rose to the highest position of 135th in 2012, it is the fourth consecutive year the republic has fallen in the rankings.
The overall report agonised about the “deep and disturbing” decline in media freedom globally and in specific regions over the past year.
The 2016 World Press Freedom Index, as usual, said the state of affairs is not pretty for journalism and reflects "the intensity of the attacks on journalistic freedom and independence by governments, ideologies and private-sector interests during the past year".
A total of 180 countries were ranked according to the freedom allowed for journalists to function, using what Reporters Without Borders claims is their sophisticated methodology for ranking and analysis, and highly influential annual reporting.
Singapore, having fallen by one place, was said to have suffered the second biggest decline in this region:
Singapore (154th) suffered the region’s second biggest decline, after the Sultanate of Brunei (155th, down 34), where the gradual introduction of the Sharia and threats of blasphemy charges fuelled self-censorship.
Reporters Without Borders assumptions
There are a few basic assumptions Reporters Without Borders makes about journalism in general, but do not state so explicitly:
1. Society owes journalism a living;
2. Journalists must carry out their duties without fear or favour, never mind that journalism is a job and a means to an end like any other;
3. Journalism can be done well, extensively and comprehensively in unfavourable conditions as long as journalists have the heart, never mind their stomachs might be empty and other aspects of their lives are in complete disarray;
4. Journalism must be independent of private-sector interests and government control, which means journalists do not need to be paid well (or paid) as long as they don't starve to death and do not deserve to be abused because virtue is its own reward.
But if you need a more accurate self-description, as per Reporters Without Borders:
Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is now so well known, its influence over the media, governments and international organizations is growing.
The Index is based on an evaluation of media freedom that measures pluralism, media independence, the quality of the legal framework and the safety of journalists in 180 countries. It is compiled by means of a questionnaire in 20 languages that is completed by experts all over the world. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.
The Index is not an indicator of the quality of the journalism in each country, nor does it rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking.
Having this backgrounder in mind, it is time to read Singapore's report.
As reported in the 2016 report on specific countries, no real journalists were killed in Singapore, mainly because there are only some very limited real journalists here to begin with and also because the people at the receiving end of oppression are bloggers:
The Media Development Authority Act, the Films Act and the Broadcasting Act empower the Media Development Authority (MDA) to censor journalistic content, including online content. In April 2015, this government agency ordered the closure of The Real Singapore (TRS) news website because of content regarded as overly critical. Two of its alleged contributors were accused of “sedition,” which is punishable by 21 years in prison. Defamation suits are common in the city-state and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has personally brought prosecutions against bloggers.
The top three countries are Finland (1), Netherlands (2) and Norway (3).
And the bottom three are Turkmenistan (178), North Korea (179) and Eritrea (180).