Reporters without Borders suggests modifications to Singapore's new media bill

Who are the victims of the Barcelona terrorist attack?
Representational picture

Reporters without Borders (RWB) or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), the non-profit organization that promotes media freedom worldwide has condemned Singapore's decision to implement a new bill to ban media coverage during terrorist attacks.

According to RSF, the new bill that would prohibit photos and videos from a terrorist attack site will result in serious violations of media freedom.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in the new bill, gives rights to the Commissioner of Police to issue a ''communications stop order'' during the time of a terror attack. All journalists would be compelled to abide by it, and if somebody violates it, they will end up in prison for two years besides a fine of S$20,000.

''No one disputes the need for special measures in the event of a terrorist attack, but it is not the interior ministry's job to decide what journalists can broadcast or publish. By depriving the public of coverage of such grave events, this ban would put the public in danger. This proposed law would be completely counter-productive if the aim of the authorities is to protect the population. But it would be very effective if their aim is to gag independent media," said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF's Asia-Pacific desk.

While presenting the bill, the Ministry of Home Affairs cited the examples of Mumbai terror attack in 2008 and Paris attacks in 2015 where television coverage negatively impacted rescue operations during the attack. The RSF stated that a ban of such kind is introduced nowhere in the world.

Instead, the RSF has suggested the government to develop a code of conduct for media personnel while covering such terrorist attacks. It should not ban journalists to work freely, and it should also respect public interest.

Singapore is currently ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 list of World Press Freedom Index.

This article was first published on March 3, 2018