In today’s internet era that allows for the proliferation of “fake news,” the state of the world media’s freedom is an important measure of how governments handle freedom of speech in their own countries.
As in previous years, Singapore still doesn’t look all that great when it comes to civil liberties, despite its economic success and first-world-isms. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest Democracy Index, our media freedom status is considered “unfree,” with press in Singapore described as actively prevented from exercising their right to freedom of conscience and expression.
Within the Southeast Asian region, Singapore scores horrendously in the media freedom ranking, landing on the 132nd spot out of 167 countries in the world covered by the index. Our neighbors fare a lot better, with Myanmar and Thailand at #121, Malaysia at #109, Indonesia at #71, and the Philippines at #49.
To give you a sense of where Singapore is in the rankings, the country is ranked lower than the likes of Afghanistan (#71), Ukraine (#109), Egypt (#121), and Bangladesh (#49). We’re tied in the rankings with the likes of Oman, Qatar, Cambodia, and Swaziland.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 30 countries in the index are classified as “fully free” — they have few restrictions on freedom of expression and protest, robust media coverage, well-represented dissenting views, and free electronic and print media. The top tier is populated by Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, and Iceland; all of which tie for first place and are considered “fully free.”
The Asia-Pacific region is the third-worst violator of media freedom, says The Economist, and in some ways, they are the worst places to operate for journalists, bloggers, and civil-rights activists. China, North Korea, and Laos are pinpointed as straight-up black holes for independent news and information.
Though Singapore continues to perform poorly in the realm of media freedom, the city-state does above average in terms of democracy as a whole. The Republic takes the 69th spot globally since it possesses a “flawed democracy” — although we scored pretty badly when it comes to the electoral process and pluralism (of course), as well as political participation and political culture (“why vote or debate issues when one party will win anyway?”).
Nordic countries occupy the top three spots, with Norway considered the utopian democracy, while Iceland and Sweden take second and third place.