Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he does not take seriously Singapore's low rankings on press freedom, as he believes the way the media here is managed "makes sense" for the country.
Mr Lee described the system as one in which "information flows freely on the Internet, you can get data instantly from anywhere in the world, newspapers report freely the news, but also responsibly".
Newspapers should aim to inform and educate and be a source of reliable information, opinion as well as entertainment. "And not all newspapers in the world aspire to do that," he noted.
This model has worked for Singapore, he said, but noted that it was also changing with the advent of the Internet and social media.
He made the point in reply to a question on what Singapore was doing to get a better ranking in the annual Press Freedom Index, done by non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders. In last year's index, Singapore was ranked 149th out of 179 countries, just above Iraq and Myanmar.
According to the report, the group's ranking looks at press freedom, including the laws governing the media. It does not measure the quality of journalism in the country's media. The results are also based partly on a questionnaire sent to partner groups.
Turning to the changes taking place in the media scene around the world, he noted that more people were now getting their news online and from social media.
An active user of Facebook and Instagram, Mr Lee regularly posts slice-of-life photos of his official trips overseas, as well as more serious updates such as condolences to families of disaster victims.
"I think it's a useful additional channel. But if you want to deliver an op-ed, 800 words is already too much for Facebook. And on Instagram, the paragraphs are even shorter. That's just the way the attention span is," he said.
He acknowledged that social media can influence election results as people use it to exchange opinions and snippets. He contrasted that to the way an older generation would read the newspapers "from cover to cover" to get a good sense of what was happening.
This article was published on April 10 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.