Trump-Kim summit: Foreign journalists expected to abide by Singapore's laws which are transparent, says S. Iswaran

Public officers preparing welcome kits at the media centre for the United States and North Korea summit. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Public officers preparing welcome kits at the media centre for the United States and North Korea summit. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Work has been going around the clock the past fortnight to ensure that the 2,500-plus foreign journalists expected here for the United States and North Korea summit - the largest contingent Singapore has ever had to host - can report in a smooth and effective manner, said Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran.

On their part, the journalists are also expected to abide by Singapore's laws - which are transparent, he added.

Mr Iswaran was speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a visit to the media centre which has been set up at the F1 Pit Building in the Marina Bay area.

Since Singapore was confirmed as the venue for the June 12 summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, journalists have descended on the city-state on recce trips.

On Thursday, two journalists from South Korea's largest broadcaster, Korean Broadcasting System (KBS), were arrested for trespassing in the North Korean ambassador's home at Joo Chiat Lane.

Two others - a 31-year-old also from KBS and their 29-year-old guide and interpreter - are being investigated.

The three KBS staff are not accredited media personnel in Singapore.

Asked about this, Mr Iswaran said of foreign journalists: "We want them to be able to do their job seamlessly and effectively whilst they're here in Singapore."

However, he said, Singapore's primary obligation was to ensure that the summit proceeds smoothly and securely, and those involved in the meetings can focus on their tasks without any distractions.

"For those (journalists) who are coming from overseas, expectation is of course that they will abide by our laws, and I think that is a reasonable expectation," he said.

"And for those who do not abide by our laws then we will have to let law enforcement take its due course and that's the situation."

The minister added that Singapore's laws are transparent and people know what is to be expected.

Citing the large numbers of journalists who have been registered to cover the event here, he said this "suggests that we're fairly open to the media for the purposes of coverage of this and many other events in Singapore".

The three-storey, 23,000 sq m F1 Pit Building has been transformed into a media centre from which journalists can work. A broadcast centre, workstations, media briefing rooms, and a dining hall have been set up, among other facilities, and the centre will be open round the clock from June 10 at 10am and will close on June 13 at 10pm.

The F1 Pit Building has been transformed into a media centre from which journalists can work. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Of the more than 2,500 journalists registered to cover the event, 80 per cent are from overseas, with the Japanese, Korean and American contingents the biggest.

Ms Ann Chan, a director at the MCI's media division who oversaw the planning for the event, said her team has planned for contingencies such as if the media centre gets crowded or people get rowdy.

Some 300 public officers will staff the centre and help facilitate the work of journalists during this period.

They include Ms Lam Zhi Xin, a senior manager at MCI's media division, who is fluent in Mandarin and volunteered to be a media liaison officer for press from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

"It will be very exciting against the backdrop of the summit, and is also a good opportunity to reach out to foreign media," she said.

On the preparations that have gone into setting up the place, Mr Iswaran said: "Because the global interest in this event is self-evident. we have to ensure that the coverage is enabled by ensuring the technical and other facilities are adequately provided, and I think that's been the major task. I think the challenge has been accentuated by the fact that we've had to do this in a very short period of time."

His ministry is also working with private sector partners, including some that have volunteered to sponsor the food. They include Sats, Yakun Kaya Toast, The Common Good Company, and Paris Baguette.

Public servant Jayshree Nagara Raja, an assistant manager at MCI who was involved arranging for food options, said: "We hope to showcase Singaporean hospitality at its best."

Said Mr Iswaran of the entire exercise: "This is really Singapore Inc at it's best, working between the private sector and public sector in very seamless manner in order to achieve the kind of outcomes that we're known for."

Since the June 12 summit was confirmed, some Singaporeans have also taken to social media to complain about the inconveniences it may cause, with some areas designated special areas which will be closed to traffic or subject to security checks.

To this Mr Iswaran said it is inevitable that some inconveniences would arise in the course of such events.

But he had this to say: "I hope that Singaporeans can understand the need for this and will be able to rise to the occasion so that we can all be gracious hosts and make sure that this event is carried out in a smooth, efficient manner that will do us all proud."

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