Singaporean media warned to remain neutral on gay rights debate

Singaporean media companies have been warned to remain neutral when it comes to discussing LGBTIQA+ rights.

Jospehine Teo, the country’s Minister for Communication and Information (MCI) has said that the recent announcement that homosexuality will be decriminalised should not lead to and change in how homosexuality in treated in the media.

The Minister hit out at a social media post from the Reverend Miak Siew, who heads one of the few LGBTIQA+ affirming churches in the country. In his social media post Miak Siew had commented that the recent announcement will make it easier for people to discuss

“The announcement of the repeal has helped made it easier for us to be speaking about LGBT topics ‘live on air’.” he said referencing an upcoming radio interview.

The Minister responded to the Facebook comment saying the statement that it would be easier to speak about LGBTIQA+ rights was “contrary to the MCI’s position.”

Teo said that while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had announced Section 377A of the penal code would be repealed he had also said it would not interrupt the country’s established views on homosexuality.

“He also made clear that we do not want the repeal to trigger a drastic shift in our societal norms across the board, including what is shown on free to air television and in cinemas.” Teo said.

“Following PM’s announcement, my ministry, MCI, issued a statement to confirm that our content regulation policies remain unchanged. We will maintain the status quo in the media landscape, and strongly discourage campaigning for pro or anti LGBT viewpoints.”

The Minister said her department was aware of Miak Siew’s post, issuing a warning to media companies.

“This view is contrary to MCI’s position and gives the wrong impression that our mainstream media – SPH Media Trust and MediaCorp – has shifted. MCI has engaged them and can confirm they understand and support the Government’s position.”

“If mainstream media campaigns or lobbies for either side in this debate – or gives prominence to one view to the exclusion of others – it would not be possible for us to avoid the culture wars we see elsewhere.

“It is of utmost importance that mainstream media continues to be responsible and balanced in handling LGBT topics. I am confident they will do so and will take appropriate action to maintain this balance as and when it is challenged.” the minister said.

Following the Minister’s comments the radio station postponed conducting the interview.

Miak Siew responded to the Minister’s comments about his post and planned radio appearance, saying he respectfully disagreed with the politicians viewpoint.

“So, talking about our lives, and the discrimination we face is campaigning for one side of the debate. I respectfully disagree with Minister Josephine Teo.

“Discrimination is discrimination. Whether it is towards someone who holds certain religious beliefs or someone who is LGBTQ or someone who belongs to some category.

“I would fight for the right for anyone to hold on to their religious beliefs – even if it is contrary to my own. That’s how I understand freedom of religion. However, that right does not extend to impose that onto everyone else.”

The religious leader went on to share some of the ways that LGBTIQA+ people in Singapore experience discrimination because of their sexuality.

“At least now, we know exactly who pulled the plug. Someone in MCI. This is just part of the systemic erasure and silencing of our voices – so that people won’t hear the stories that will help them understand, and change their minds.” Miak Siew posted in response.

Mentions of homosexuality in film and television are tightly controlled in Singapore where many popular television programs are cut significantly to remove references. Earlier this year the Disney film Lightyear was given an adulty rating in Singapore due a brief same-sex kiss between two characters.

Following the announcement that the laws which make gay sex illegal would be appealed, some religious and family groups have called on the government bring in stricter laws to protect children from exposure “gay propaganda”.

Laws preventing people from speaking about homosexuality are currently in place in Russia, and the United Kingdom previously has Clause 28 in their laws which stopped LGBTI issues being mentioned or promoted in government owned facilities. The laws were in place for 15 years from 1988 until 2003, the government subsequently issued an apology for their existence.

OIP Staff

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