Mutual trust and respect between Govt and media key for Singapore: Josephine Teo, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper
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Mutual trust and respect between Govt and media key for Singapore: Josephine Teo

Nothing is more vital than trust in a public health crisis, and Singapore pulled through the Covid-19 pandemic maintaining high levels of trust between individuals as well as between the public and the Government.

This was made possible by truthful and accurate reporting from Singapore's media, said Minister for Communications and Information Josephine Teo on Friday (June 10).

There is also mutual trust and respect between the Government and the media, she said, adding that this relationship has been instrumental throughout the country's existence as an independent nation.

"Like all relationships, it is not without tension," said Mrs Teo.

"It has to be constantly managed, but it has worked. Far from being apologetic about it, we should make every effort to sustain it."

This relationship is built on the significant value which the Government places on the role of the local media in nation-building, she said, adding that she is certain this will continue under the fourth-generation (4G) leadership.

She was speaking at the Press Ball dinner marking the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Press Club, held at Orchard Hotel and attended by more than 400 media professionals and their guests.

In her speech, Mrs Teo, who took over the helm of the ministry in May 2021, midway through the pandemic, outlined how the 4G is likely to engage the media going forward.

Citing how the Government disseminated information on Covid-19, she said: "The Government held regular press conferences to share the latest developments and public health measures and addressed the media's questions candidly.

"In the early stages of the crisis, especially during the circuit breaker period, Ministers Gan Kim Yong and Lawrence Wong held as many as three or four press conferences a week - so often, I'm told some of you protested!"

She added that the Government shared information promptly and fully and that no vital information was withheld. This allowed the media to reflect the Covid-19 situation accurately and present information in ways that were easy to understand.

She said: "You produced countless explainer pieces and conducted interviews with medical experts to unpack the details of government policies and the latest science."

This allowed Singapore to avoid becoming divided along ideological lines about issues such as mask-wearing, vaccinations or social distancing, unlike in other countries.

She acknowledged that journalists had different opinions and, on occasion, wrote op-eds disagreeing with the Government.

"But we all operated on the same set of facts," she said. "This was as much due to the Government and the medical authorities as to you - editors and journalists in all the language streams."

She added: "Singapore was able to stand tall these past two years in large part because our media too stood tall. This will be your legacy."

Mrs Teo added that the world is just as or even more complex than it was at the Press Club's founding in 1971.

Geopolitical tensions, technological disruption, the speed of misinformation and hostile information campaigns mean that the significance of Singapore's media will only grow in the coming decades, she said.

But the industry will also face severe challenges , which is why the Government will continue to support Mediacorp and the newly formed SPH Media Trust, she said.

"To our local media companies, I have two words for you: 'Go forward'," she added.

Mrs Teo challenged the audience to innovate with new and better experiences for seniors, working adults and young digital natives, to experiment with new and better content. "Go forward to achieve greater excellence in serving our people - through news stories that not just capture eyeballs or clicks, but lift our minds and unite our hearts," she added.

Turning her attention to the Press Club's efforts for the media industry, Mrs Teo saidshe looked forward to its continual efforts to transform and keep up with members' evolving needs.

Press Club president and former interim chief executive of SPH Media Trust Patrick Daniel also spoke, noting that the club has grown and adapted during the pandemic.

He said: "The club's main aim remains the same - to serve as an active and purposeful networking organisation. Going forward, we want to do more and work with partners to cover as wide a range of activities as we can."

On Friday, the club gave out its inaugural "Rising Stars" awards to four journalists under 35 and another award for excellence in sustainability reporting.

Straits Times journalists Audrey Tan and Rebecca Pazos bagged two of these, while journalists Nabilah Awang from Today, Kelly Ng from the Business Times and 8World News' Chai You Xia rounded out the awardees.

The Press Club also unveiled a Hall of Fame for media industry veterans past and present, which included 14 posthumous awardees, including former Singapore presidents Yusof Ishak and Wee Kim Wee, both of whom were media editors.

mediaJOSEPHINE TEOSPH MEDIA TRUST