The Issue Mainstream Media Is Avoiding

The Lee family saga is all we’ve been talking about for almost 3 days now, and there’s since been a lot of back and forth between the Lee siblings. But, what’s the real thing we should all be concerned about? That depends on who you ask.


In Lee Wei Ling’s Facebook post, she has blatantly accused PM Lee Hsien Loong of misusing his power. While briefly addressed by The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia, international news agencies have focused on the magnitude of this public accusation.

Foreign news directly addressing “abuse of power” in the headlines

Foreign news:

Screenshot from FOX News. Source

Screenshot from Daily Mail. Source

International news have decided that the “abuse of power” was the most important thing to point out from this family feud.

Screenshot from TIME. Source

TIME tried to draw the uncanny similarities between PM Lee Hsien Loong as the eldest brother and 1984’s Big Brother. After all, “big brother is watching you”.

Screenshot from The Guardian. Source

With the running allusion of “Big Brother”, it is only fitting that The Guardian flashes out the siblings’ denouncement of PM Lee in the headlines.

Screenshot from Jakarta Globe. Source

Screenshot from The Sydney Morning Herald. Source

The idea of living in an alleged Orwellian state incites fear. That’s how Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang feel and the foreign media has helped to express their concerns in the headlines.

Local news:

Screenshot from The Straits Times. Source

Screenshot from Channel NewsAsia. Source

Instead of focusing on the allegations, local news has chosen to whip out the “family affair” card, perhaps to encourage readers to think that this is a private matter, instead of one of national importance.

The TL;DR version as written in the introduction

Readers might not have enough time to read through the entire article and would prefer a Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) version right at the introduction, that will give them some idea of what the article is about.

Of course, there are major differences here as well.

Foreign news:

Screenshot from The Star Online. Source

Screenshot from CNN. Source

Screenshot from The Guardian. Source

This is what we can tell from skimming through the introductions of international reports:

  • There is alleged abuse of power.
  • They are afraid of “Big Brother”.
  • The siblings have lost confidence in the nation’s leader.

Local news:

Screenshot from The Straits Times. Source

Well, there they go again with the “family affair”.

How Lee Hsien Yang’s Expression Of Fear Was Censored

The most immediate consequence of the conflict between PM Lee and his siblings is the decision of Lee Hsien Yang to leave the country with his family. The alleged abuse of power seemed to have taken its toll on him, so severe that he’s forced to leave his own homeland.

The magnitude seems to be immense but local and foreign news depicted it differently.

Foreign news:

Screenshot from theSundaily. Source

Screenshot from Deutsche Welle. Source

The fear is real. Lee Hsien Yang alleges he has no choice but to resort to “fleeing” the country to live a life as a pariah without a state.

Local news:

Screenshot from TODAY. Source

Screenshot from The Straits Times. Source

There’s hardly a tinge of fear in these statements, and using “compelled” makes it harder to for readers feel for Lee Hsien Yang as compared to the way foreign news have depicted his departure.

Lee family saga won’t end so soon

It may be the core of the Lee family feud but there seems to be a lack of focus on the other accusations against PM Lee, made by Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang. The coverage of this pales in comparison to foreign news outlets.

The question we should ask is: even as we spot these differences, what do we care more about?

Should the coverage of this saga solely focus on the technicalities of the will? Or should we look at the bigger picture – the reason that forced Lee Wei Ling to make this issue public. And this starts with looking into these alleged accusations and making it the focal point of our local news coverage. Because only when these allegations of misuse of power are proven false, can Singaporeans truly acknowledge that this is a private family dispute that should stay private.

Feature image from Channel NewsAsia and Daily Mail.