Bloggers In Singapore Question Escape Of Militant

    March 6, 2008

The state controlled media and government in Singapore have been heavily criticized by bloggers for not providing details about how an Islamic militant escaped from prison.

"The mainstream media did its job of trying to play down the most shameful part of the incident. It is a blow to Singapore’s image as being efficient," Seah Chiang Nee, a political commentator and former Singapore newspaper editor, told Reuters. "The more Internet savvy would not depend on the mainstream media for news of what’s happening in the country, they would go to the Internet," said Seah.

Mas Selamat bin Kastari, the alleged leader of the Singapore cell of al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah, a group thought to be responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, escaped last Wednesday from the bathroom of a detention center.

The escape was an embarrassment for the country, which touts high levels of security.  The escape led to a large manhunt and an apology from the government who called it a "security lapse."

Cherian George, a former Straits Times journalist, wrote online that the Singapore media had not answered the question of how Kastari escaped. " The question is so natural and so obvious that you’d think anyone barely paying attention would ask it. Unless, apparently, one worked for the national news media," George wrote.

George said the lack of government details surrounding the escape was due to state controlled media that would eventually drive readers to other sources.

Patrick Daniel, editor of the Straits Times, said the paper took its responsibility to readers seriously and that George was "utterly wrong"  about its journalists not asking about how Kastari escaped.

"If Cherian had checked with us, we would have told him that we asked that question, and many others too, many times," he said.

"I think that there was tacit understanding between the government and the media," Catherine Lim, said, a well known local author and political commentator.