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A Quick Look at Local Media Coverage of the Lee Saga

It all began with a late night Facebook post by Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang, siblings of the Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong.

For the past week, our social media news feeds have been caught in the crossfire of allegations and accusations from the Lee siblings.The reason for the altercation would appear to be the fate of the estate at 38 Oxley Road left behind by the founding father of the little red dot, Lee Kuan Yew.

Why is this case interesting? Media channels in Singapore are under the strict purview of the Info-Communications Media Development Authority where journalistic censorship, defamation suits and sedition charges are far from uncommon.

In a country where press freedom ranks 151 out of 180 countries [1], it is interesting to see how the local media chose to cover the hot issue of prominent siblings take to public their squabbles. We have taken examples of reports from two local mainstream and two popular alternative news sources to help identify the commonalities and discrepancies in their approaches to reporting.

The Straits Times

The Straits Time or as we often refer it to as, ST is the English flagship daily of Singapore Press Holdings, a leading media organisation in Singapore has been said to have close ties with the government.

When it comes to reporting on the Lee family saga, the news with headlines such as
“PM Lee Hsien Loong ‘saddened’ by statement from siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang” and “Lee Kuan Yew’s will is final and binding, says Lee Hsien Yang”  are accurate collation of information that publicly available on social media. However, ST has shown that it can be unbiased when it reached out to Lee Hsien Yang for his side of the story on the issue in “Lee Hsien Yang says he feels compelled to leave Singapore“.

In terms of speed of reporting on the Lee saga, ST was ranked the second last in our list. While it may not be the one to give its reader’s the first dips or the juiciest stories, deep insights and interpretations of the events, it has so far succeeded in reporting straight facts and statements as they are.

Channel News Asia

Channel News Asia or CNA, was set up in 1999 by Mediacorp, which is in turn owned by Temasek Holdings, an investment arm of the Singapore government. Being a state media, many would suspect it to be a mouthpiece of the ruling coalition and be overtly biased in reporting.

It has taken a seemingly factual reporting style to provide its readers with news. They have also reached out to Lee Hsien Yang for comments and published them accordingly.

What’s noteworthy, as pointed out by, was that the first post by CNA did not focus on the younger siblings’ public statements but on the denial of the statements by PM Lee. The speed of which the first report was published was unsurprisingly the laggiest in our list. One can only imagine the rounds of vetting and approval they had to go through.

Investigative journalism by the state media appears to be minimal with regards to the Lee saga. Overall, the score is similar to ST.

Mothership – the mother of alternative news in Singapore and a vessel of all things informative and entertaining. In all honesty, we wonder if the people at Mothership ever sleeps and if they are on caffeine I.V. While Mothership may tend to sensationalise, their wit and speed are impressive.

The portal seems to have followed extremely closely and covered every incident in the Lee saga as they unfold, even during most ungodly hours.

Mothership was also one of the firsts to share the news on its Facebook page. which also doesn’t come as a surprise.

Their investigative approach to journalism has also helped to highlight details one may have easily overlooked such as the difference in Lee Kuan Yew’s signature on the will and on other documents in earlier years and also educating its readers on how to make a will and the timeline of events surrounding the Oxley estate from over a century. Mothership’s often unapologetic narrative of news also provides daringly honest vantage points such as their summary of the Lee saga, describing it as a squabble among five-year-olds.

It is obvious that Mothership’s approach to the Lee saga is hardly mere reporting but rather investigative journalism that cheekily suggests but never provide clear conclusions for readers following the news on their portal.

The Middle Ground

The Middle Ground is an independent news source was co-founded by former Straits Times journalist Bertha Henson. The Middle Ground is a far cry from a purely objective news source. Instead, as its name suggests, reporting is made by interpreting facts from different stances to help the masses appreciate the situation on a deeper level.

TMG also tops our list in terms of reporting speed of the Lee saga at 8:19 am on 14 June 2017.

In the reportings such as “FamiLEE saga: Someone should just sue” and “FamiLEE saga: Who’s involved” Henson raised pertinent questions such as “Is the house the be-all and end-all of this saga?” and “Have any of them (the lawyers involved) been summoned by the internal ministerial committee to give statements?”. On top of those, in “FamiLEE saga: A third party tell all“, TMG also did not pass on the chance to gauge more information from Lee Hsien Yang on the issue.

The site has critically analysed the events that unfolded throughout the Lee saga, offering possible solutions along with forecasts of repercussions to the situation and more questions for pondering. While TMG’s reporting on the Lee saga may not be as entertaining as Mothership or as objective as the mainstream media,  its dauntless interpretations of events are rather thought-provoking.

In every healthy media landscape, mainstream media and alternative media are to act as a check and balance, and a compliment for one another. On top of facts and insights, the world needs the occasional entertainment and sometimes tongue in cheek manner of reporting. To the different styles of journalismFree Articles, we say the more the merrier!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are a result of personal observations and findings of the authors during the time of writing and are by no means a comprehensive analysis or indicator of the efficacy or superiority of the media in discussion. [1] Reporters Without Borders. 2017. “2017 World Press Freedom Index”.

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Originally a one-person operation with an astute eye for detail, and driven by a passion for concise, effective communications, Brand Inc. has evolved into one of the leading boutique consumer lifestyle public relations (PR) firms in Singapore and Malaysia that specialises in public relations areas such as medical healthcare, hospitality, food & beverage (F&B) restaurants, consumer tech, events and fashion.

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