Berita Harian plays vital role in strengthening social fabric: PM Lee

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cutting the cake at yesterday’s event to mark Berita Harian’s 60th anniversary. With him are (from left) ST editor and editor-in-chief of SPH’s English/Malay/Tamil Media Group Warren Fernandez; SPH deputy chief ex
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong cutting the cake at yesterday’s event to mark Berita Harian’s 60th anniversary. With him are (from left) ST editor and editor-in-chief of SPH’s English/Malay/Tamil Media Group Warren Fernandez; SPH deputy chief executive officer Anthony Tan; former Berita Harian editor Yatiman Yusof; Berita Harian editor Saat Abdul Rahman; and SPH chief executive officer Ng Yat Chung.PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

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 yesterday.

"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 to celebrate the newspaper's 60th anniversary, at Swissotel Merchant Court Singapore hotel.

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

This is despite 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 the 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 the 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.

While Berita Harian's reader profile has changed, progressing with the nation as it moved from Third World to First, "(its readers) 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 Maliki Osman were also present at yesterday's event.

Seow Bei Yi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2017, with the headline 'Berita Harian plays vital role in strengthening social fabric: PM Lee'. Print Edition | Subscribe