Please see below for our letter to the Straits Times Forum.
NGO’s media coverage findings
We read with interest the recent exchange between Workers’ Party (WP) chief Low Thia Khiang (1)(2) and the editors of The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao (‘Low explains comments on media’; last Wednesday).
MARUAH believes media monitoring during elections is pivotal to free and fair elections. Such monitoring to ensure balanced coverage has to be done by neutral parties, and the conclusions shared with the public.
We conducted a media monitoring exercise during the Hougang by-election. Due to limited resources, the immediate analysis was limited to the English-language newspapers and Lianhe Wanbao. We had conducted similar exercises for the General Election and Presidential Election last year.
The monitoring process covered the following parameters: quantitative coverage by the media in terms of column inches devoted to positive stories and negative stories; qualitative coverage in terms of placement of articles and photos; and an assessment on the positive or negative imaging through the choice of photos.
Our preliminary findings showed that, on average, the People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate received 11.5 column inches of positive coverage, compared with 9 column inches for the WP candidate in the three papers studied.
In contrast, in terms of negative coverage, the WP candidate received on average 14 column inches compared with 3 inches for the PAP candidate.
The number of images of both candidates was similar (2.3 and 2.1 for the PAP and WP candidates respectively), although we did not attempt to analyse the content of the images. Placement of articles about the two candidates was also similar.
When we compared our preliminary findings with our findings for the General Election – which had been sent to the press last year – we found that there was a higher degree of fair coverage overall for both political parties involved in the by-election. This was despite the ‘NCMP-gate’ issue that spiked WP’s negative coverage.
We emphasise that this is a preliminary analysis, and we will be publishing our definitive media analysis once we have found more resources.
Paul Ananth Tambyah
Head, Media Monitoring Project
Braema Mathi (Ms)