Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 4: The Importance of a Fourth Estate in Singapore

Posted on Mar 3 2016 - 5:08pm by Redwire Singapore

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This story is part 4 of a 5 part series on the Death of Benjamin Lim. Read more:

Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 1: The Cold, Hard, Emotionless Facts
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 2: Making Sense of a Life Lost and Loss of Innocence
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 3: Did Police Pull the Trigger on the Teen’s Fatal Leap?
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 4: The Importance of a Fourth Estate in Singapore
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 5: Whose Side are You On?

ELSON: For too long, Singaporeans have been lulled into the belief that everything is fine in sunny Singapore and that our public institutions would die before they make a mistake. One party guilty of giving us this false sense of security if the mainstream media.

I’m a businessman, not a reporter. But speaking to friends in the media line (whom businesses have to get into the good books of to avoid negative press), I’ve listened to complaints over beer mugs that the press has to answer to the government and maintain goodwill with companies that spend big on ad space. How true this is, I cannot verify.

But at face value, what I can see is the rise of responsible alternative media has given Singapore a semblance of a true Fourth Estate. That term is commonly used to describe an independent press which keeps check on the government, the public sector, and private enterprise. A press that isn’t a dog that scampers every time a bone is thrown.

Redwire has been doing this. In one of its biggest exposes, BreadTalk had to apologise with its tail between its buns for lying to the public about how fresh its soya bean milk was. What was also uncovered – the company planned a 600 percent mark up for that not-as-fresh-as-claimed soya bean milk. Mainstream media had a field day with that, with ST, TODAY and CNA all picking up on the story. Keeping private enterprise in check? Check.

The Online Citizen must be given due praise for taking up the case of Benjamin Lim. I believe that we wouldn’t get such a swift response from the public sector had TOC not put their neck on the line to champion the rights of a minor. A lowly alternative media website run, as the Straits Times put it, as a “one man show” can prompt the police and the education ministry to review procedures, this is truly a Kim Jong-Un “come-I-clap-for-you” moment.

Mistakes were made along the way – the allegation that police wore uniform to arrest Lim which turned out to be some mom’s misunderstanding of the situation, and the hammering in of the point that 5 of such policemen arrested a young boy which later proved to be totally different from the truth.

Getting the facts and making the case. Trust me, in the corporate world, if you can’t back yourself up with facts, Boss is going to screw you until damn jialat, until your ass can become damn kilat. TOC can’t be excused for getting its stuff wrong, especially in a case of such sensitive nature (you can maybe get away with the bronies, but not something like this).

Such is the system of checks and balance. If the media is wrong, call them out on the errors. If government bodies are wrong, they should be taken to task too. The information and the discourse that follows is what makes an informed citizenry, and provides the checks and balance for an incorruptible government and social organisations. Money can encourage, but cannot buy incorruptibility – the government must know that Singaporeans are watching and aren’t afraid to expose wrongs committed. Similarly, for the private sector. Keeping Singaporeans informed is a free press not beholden to any entity.

Spotlight is a movie that shows how a free press can expose the atrocities of society. No one is too big, or too small, to fail. 14-year-old Benjamin Lim’s death was tragic, but it has reminded Singaporeans of the need for a Fourth Estate and an active citizenry. We can take comfort in that, as little as that comfort may be.

This story is part 4 of a 5 part series on the Death of Benjamin Lim. Read more:

Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 1: The Cold, Hard, Emotionless Facts
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 2: Making Sense of a Life Lost and Loss of Innocence
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 3: Did Police Pull the Trigger on the Teen’s Fatal Leap?
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 4: The Importance of a Fourth Estate in Singapore
Death of Benjamin Lim Pt 5: Whose Side are You On?

 

 

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