Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Friday night offered three suggestions to Singapore's main Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao on how to keep thriving beyond its 90th birthday.
Mr Lee was the guest of honour at a forum to mark the special occasion that also saw the launch of a new website, zaobao.sg, for Singapore readers.
He noted that Zaobao is one of the longest-surviving Chinese newspapers in the world and is highly regarded in Asia.
It has almost 800,000 readers and the readership of its website, zaobao.com, is rising, he said in a speech in Mandarin centred on media issues.
At the same time, it faces new challenges owing to the onset of new media and changing news consumption habits of younger Singaporeans.
The three suggestions Mr Lee had for Zaobao were:
- To reflect the diverse views in Singapore society objectively and responsibly;
- To give a Singapore perspective on the region; and
- To transmit Chinese culture and values in new ways that appeal to younger Singaporeans.
He acknowledged that many Zaobao readers were concerned about the place of Chinese culture in Singapore and gave the assurance that the Government was doing its utmost to preserve it.
Among the measures he cited were promoting the use of mother tongue, upgrading Special Assistance Plan schools, building the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre and working with Business China to help Singaporeans succeed in China.
But he also stressed the need to remember that Singapore is a multiracial, multi-ethnic society.
"We have worked hard to build a Singapore identity, so we are all Singaporeans first, regardless of race or religion," he said.
There was a need to safeguard "our common secular space and our common language, English", he added.
On its part, Zaobao must reflect society's increasingly diverse views and needs, tone and temper, yet promote a shared understanding of national issues and challenges, he said.
Mr Lee stressed the need for careful reporting on sensitive or emotional issues, which is important in maintaining social cohesion in Singapore. "Naturally, this applies to all newspapers, not just Zaobao," he added.
But despite Singapore's multi- language environment, a participant noted a move towards using one language in many areas, like signage, for instance.
Mr Lee replied that the use of one language, English, was sometimes for expedience and to cater to an audience that understands the language.
But in important discussions, like parliamentary proceedings, all four official languages would be used, he said.
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