The Cost of Reporting in Singapore

How much money did the FT save by caving

in to the Singapore government’s bullying tactics? In the first instance,

about £67,000. Dow Jones’s Far Eastern Economic Review is fighting the

Singapore government in a similar case, showing a bit of backbone. And at the

end of a story

from last year about the FEER case, we find this:

The government ordered Time, Newsweek, the Financial Times and the International

Herald Tribune to post bonds of 200,000 Singaporean dollars and appoint representatives

in Singapore.

That doesn’t mean that the bond is the maximum that the FT stood to lose, of

course. There’s the cost of legal representation, and then the Singapore courts

can award any amount they like against the FT. Once damages were awarded, Singapore

could then try to collect in any jurisdiction in the world, including the UK,

although I’m not sure if it’s ever gone that far or had any success.

More damaging for the FT, if it fought back then Singapore would probably ban

it outright, just as it has banned the FEER. (At one point, Judicial Commissioner

Sundaresh Menon even barred

the FEER’s lawyer.) As a Singaporean commenter noted on my last post

on the subject,

Singapore is an important market to FT, which is why they capitulated so

quickly. I personally felt that FT has done a disservice to itself and to

the forward/right thinking population of Singapore.

Interestingly, Reporters Without Borders has just released its latest Press

Freedom Index. Singapore is in 141st place, just below Sudan. That said,

it does better than Russia (144th), Saudi Arabia (148th), Iraq (157th), or China

(163rd). As these and other authoritarian countries become increasingly important

to a global audience, news organizations are going to have to start making it

very clear where they stand on questions of press freedom and censorship. While

a local circulation can be valuable, a first-rate global reputation is always

much more so.

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