Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cry freedom

Singapore Falls To 146th In World Press Freedom Index SINGAPORE (Dow Jones)--Singapore's world press freedom ranking slipped in 2006 after the city-state took new punitive steps against foreign media, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Singapore was ranked 146 out of 168 nations in the annual world press freedom index released Monday, putting this wealthy island state behind countries such as Somalia, Zimbabwe and Kazakhstan. Singapore was ranked 140 in 2005.

"Singapore slipped six places because of new legal action by the government against foreign media," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on its Web site.

The press freedom watchdog has previously attributed Singapore's low ranking to the complete absence of independent media, prison sentences for press offenses, media self-censorship and the opposition's lack of access to the state media.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, are suing Far Eastern Economic Review magazine, owned by Dow Jones & Co Inc. (DJ), over an article about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan. The publication was banned in October after refusing to appoint a legal representative in Singapore and pay a S$200,000 bond to the government.

Ruling party leaders have successfully sued several opposition politicians and publications for defamation over the years. They say they sue to protect their reputations. But domestic and international critics - including the U.S. State Department and London-based rights group Amnesty International - have accused Singapore's rulers of using defamation lawsuits to stifle opponents.

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