With accusations that our mainstream media is biased because of its ranking on the World Press Freedom Index, alternative media have begun to become more prevalent, especially in periods before elections. These alternative news sites began by contrasting two opposing views and weighing them, providing an analysis of both views.

Every single one of these political websites or Facebook pages claims to be “factual”, “objective” and most of all, “neutral”. But what do all of these actually mean?

“States Times Review (STR) is an independent and neutral site that reports without fear or favour”

– Alex Tan, 2015

“We highlight local bloggers’ opinions & foreign news article about Singapore, and hope to cultivate a sensible, objective and responsible blogosphere.”

– The Singapore Daily

What is neutrality?

If neutrality is presenting both sides of a story fairly, misleading readers with unrepresentative headlines and tweaking content to suit your message is basically not neutral. And if we want to get into it, Merriam-Webster says neutrality is “the quality or state of not supporting either side in an argument, fight, war, etc. : the quality or state of being neutral”.

But are these sites really neutral, objective and factual?

In a recent article in States Times Review (STR), they carried an article “Finance Minister uses wrong data and wrongly accuse Workers’ Party of negligence”. On several occasions in the article, the author failed to present the Finance Minister’s statement fairly.

What STR said What actually happened
“The Finance Minister then said that the withholding of government grants will not help the Opposition Town Council, AHPETC, fulfill their financial obligations to the sinking fund. This is however untrue.” DPM Tharman said:

Even if you take into account MND’s grant which MND is willing to discuss with you, and you have part of the MND grant that has to properly go into the sinking fund and another part which goes into the operating fund, the amount that is owed to sinking fund from the operating fund will not be solved by MND’s grant”

 

In DPM Tharman’s actual statement, he said that if AHPETC had transferred the portion of the grant that normally goes into the sinking fund, it would not have been sufficient to cover the amount that is owed to the sinking fund.

“The Ministry of National Development however owe AHPETC S$7.2 million and refuse to pay despite going through multiple lawsuits and appeals with the Court, the High Court and even the Apex Court.” During the High Court case between the Attorney-General’s chambers and AHPETC, the Judge noted AHPETC did not accept the MND’s offer for half the grants-in-aid.

The judge stated that “if AHPETC has anyone to blame for failing to make its transfers on time, it was itself”.

“Singapore’s politics have been marred with political fixing by the ruling PAP party, who often use incomplete statistics and rhetoric to attack the Opposition Workers’ Party MPs.” The same thing should be said about the article in question for failing to cite statements in full before attacking the Finance Minister.

Here’s the video of the exchange between the Workers’ Party’s Sylvia Lim and DPM Tharman:

I would think that Singapore’s media scene would be better served by having more neutral sites rather than those that pretend to be so. Singapore’s media scene is unlikely to benefit by having more sites carrying one-sided content meant to mislead Singaporeans.

Perhaps at best, some of these alternative media sites are no better than the mainstream media they claim to be biased.