Newspapers like Berita Harian must always keep journalistic integrity, prudence: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Berita Harian editors and journalists pose for a group photo in their newsroom. ST PHOTO: BENJAMIN SEETOR

SINGAPORE - While some newspapers around the world have "succumbed to the temptation to sensationalise news, use click-bait headlines and even publish unverified stories", local dailies such as Berita Harian must always continue reporting accurately, responsibly and from a national perspective, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday (Nov 26).

"As Singapore's only Malay daily, you play a vital role in influencing your readers, and strengthening our multiracial and multi-religious social fabric," he added.

He was speaking at an event celebrating the newspaper's 60th anniversary, at Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore hotel.

He noted that Berita Harian, which is published by Singapore Press Holdings, "has kept (its) journalistic integrity and prudence" and must always do so.

This is in spite of the worldwide trend of newspapers finding it difficult to retain readership and maintain revenues, he said, adding that quite a few struggle to stay afloat.

He compared the Malay daily's need to keep up with new challenges to the constant effort of maintaining the Singapore River's cleanliness, saying that the job is never done.

"You have to keep up with your readers' changing profiles and interests," said PM Lee. "At the same time, you need to deal with the disruptions brought on by the digital age - competition from social media, and confusion from fake news."

Speaking in Malay, PM Lee also said that Singapore River reflects the nation's modernisation and progress, similar to how Berita Harian has become a major institution of Malay society.

Berita Harian's 60th anniversary celebration involves a five-day public exhibition, which ends on Thursday, to show the Malay/Muslim community's appreciation for pioneers who helped in the river cleanup that began in 1977.

Cleaning up the river and surrounding catchment area was a move that took 10 years of hard work, demanding determination and political will, said PM Lee.

Today, Singapore intends to continue beautifying the river and transforming itself, he added.

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While Berita Harian's reader profile has changed, progressing with the nation as it moved from Third World to First, "they continue to read (the paper) to stay in touch with what is happening in the community", said PM Lee.

He noted that while the newspaper has refreshed its content and presentation to appeal to the younger generation, it has also stayed true to its founding objective: of being "a bridge to foster better understanding and relations between Malays and the members of the non-Malay community".

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli, and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Dr Maliki Osman, were present at the event on Sunday as well.

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