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Singapore’s media system is highly unique. To people who take the press’ status as the fourth estate for granted, it is deeply offensive. I’m not going to defend it here, but I will say that it’s more complicated than it seems.

People have been wondering for a while how the Singapore media environment would cope with the emerging implications of the internet. Here is the beginnings of an answer, as reported by ABC:

The Singapore government says the new licensing framework is not intended to curb internet freedom, but to make the rules more consistent with those governing traditional media such as newspapers.

Under the rules, selected news websites which report regularly on Singapore would be licensed, and a performance bond of nearly $US40,000 placed with authorities.

Any story deemed objectionable by authorities would need to be taken down within 24 hours.

If you take the idea of value pluralism seriously, as I do, then the important question here is not so much how we judge this approach by our standards, but how they judge it by theirs. That’s very much an open question, as dissatisfaction with Singapore’s ruling party is running at an all-time high, but that may be about the details rather than the basic assumption of their non-adversarial media.

Value pluralism is a difficult idea, but it is not the same as moral relativism. More on this later.

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