INT.OFFICE - PANTRY - EARLY MORNING
Ah Tan was nonchalantly eating his fried carrot cake and sipping his coffee at the table when Shan stormed into the pantry. Shanmugam hit the coffee dispenser buttons as though he was playing jackpot and waited impatiently for his coffee. Finally the small paper cup of coffee was ready and he snatched it from the slot, walked over to Ah Tan's table and sat down heavily.
SHAN (snarled): Damn those stupid reporters without any borders!
AH TAN (swallowing his fried carrot cake and staring at Shan): Erm... Good morning.
SHAN: Did you hear? Those insolent foreign press ranked us 133rd on their nonsensical Press Freedom Index!
AH TAN (sipping his coffee): Oh, that. Okay what. 133rd is an improvement right? I thought we were like 144th previously?
Shan took too large a gulp and choked on his coffee. He thought he might have burnt his tongue at the same time.
SHAN (raving): What are you talking about? What improvement? We're at 133rd my friend! Not third! In fact the third place is still an insult! We should be first on the top of the list! Like anything else! This stupid ranking that place Singapore so lowly on press freedom is so absurd and divorced from reality!
Meanwhile, Ah Tan put the last small piece of fried carrot cake into his mouth and closed the foam box.
AH TAN: Well, Shan, maybe we're pushed down because of those big developed countries like U.S. and Japan, you know?
SHAN: No, no, no! We are ranked even lower than some of those countries trying to progress! Bangladesh is 121st! Even Cambodia is 117th! That does not make sense! My point is not that we are in any way inherently superior to them - the question is whether a truly objective assessment will give us such a ranking!
AH TAN (eyes wide opened): Wow, even Cambodia is better than us?
SHAN: You know, Tan, I think I know why we are been ranked so low. Remember we have had tussels and won law suits against with several newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and Far Eastern Economic Review? These stupid foreign press are not used to this anywhere else in the world and they definitely don't like it one bit. So every Law suit is met with the same reaction - we are out to silence the press. That feeling has been pervasive and has coloured the general reporting on Singapore. This is not fair, man. This is not fair.
Shan shook his head and sipped his coffee. He then put down his coffee and continued.
SHAN: Actually our approach on press reporting is very simple. The press can criticize us, our policies. We do not seek to condemn that. But we demand the right of response, to be published in the journal that published the original article. We do not accept that they can decide whether to publish our response. That's all! Is that too much to ask for?
AH TAN: Huh? You mean the press can actually criticize our policies? Can disagree with what Boss says?
SHAN: Of course they can! But of course if they publish something stupid, and we rebuke them, then it is only fair that they also publish that right?
AH TAN (rubbing his chin): Hmm... so maybe that's why the press decided to filter their own content. So that there won't be too many articles of us scolding the journalists on the newspapers...
SHAN (ignoring what Ah Tan said): Anyway, the proof of our stability can be seen by the billions of dollars invested in Singapore annually by international organizations. Our main selling point is that there will be good value added when they invest here, their investments will be protected, and that we are a stable democracy. So we definitely deserve more than a dirty 133rd place!
AH TAN: Erm... But Shan, stability and foreign investment have nothing to do with press freedom...
K. Shanmugam,Press Freedom Index,Reporters without Borders
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