Laborious Licensing Process: In the early years of independence, the licensing process was undoubtedly laborious. Printing companies, clubs, societies and even government agencies seeking to print or circulate in Singapore had to apply for permits. Application forms had to be completed in triplicate, requiring all manner of detail, such as NRIC, address, objectives of the publication, circulation numbers and sources of revenue. These rules applied to all kinds of publications, including newspapers, magazines, academic journals, newsletters and even pamphlets.
The process of approval or rejection was equally arduous. Applications were vetted carefully and security agencies were consulted to assess if applicants or owners were likely to pose any security threat. As documents in this file show, approval also had to be sought from agencies like the Ministries of Health and Environment, Building Control Division, Fire Brigade and the Chief Inspector of Factories .
Licence To Operate Printing Press: Documents in this file illustrate various issues relating to applications for a licence to operate a printing press. In evaluating applications, the authorities would consider the appropriateness of the proposed premises and its locality to ensure that they met stipulated health and fire safety requirements .
Contrary to what one might think, even in the 1960s, much attention was paid to general cleanliness and issues of employee hygiene and welfare. For instance, premises had to be thoroughly cleansed and lime-washed or painted, while other "health requirements" included providing adequate washing facilities, such as "one basin and nail brush and fixed liquid soap container for every five employees" and "proper lockers or cabinets for workers' clothing" and so on .
Application And Renewal Process: This file focuses largely on the application and renewal process of a permit to print and publish a local newspaper. During the 1960s, the Malaya Nanban, a Tamil Muslim newspaper, was monitored closely by the colonial authorities for fanning racial tensions between Hindus and Indian Muslims in Singapore. Its articles suggested that the Hindus were favoured at the expense of the Indian Muslims in the broadcasts of the Indian Section of Radio Singapore . Other articles attacking the founder of the Universal Peace Sanctuary provoked strong reactions from the 20,000-member Yoga movement .
The Publisher and Editor were called up and severely warned. Despite the warning, a further article, "Why This Blackout", commenting on a Hindu-produced Tamil film, "Kappalottiya Thamizhan", charged that an attempt was made to conceal the contributions of Indian Muslims towards the achievement of India's independence .
The paper's hardline stance raised the ire of the colonial administration, concerned with maintaining racial, religious and ethnic sensitivities. Find out what happened to the paper's publisher when he refused to sign an undertaking to refrain from publishing articles that incited tensions between Hindus and Indian Muslims .
Proprietorship Changes And Newspaper Relaunch: The closure, relaunch and proprietorship changes of a publication indicate steps taken by the authorities to be updated on who were behind the newspapers. In August 1969, for example, Tamil Murasu's proprietor, M K Chidambaram, notified the authorities that he had sold the business to G Sarangapany and wished to have his printing press licence transferred to the new owner . Sarangapany duly applied for, and was granted, the printing press licence. The paper's ownership had switched between the two men on a number of occasions.
While containing largely printing licence renewal applications, this file has some additional information of interest, including an exchange between the Government and a Malaysian gentleman over the paper not being allowed to publish betting results on horse racing and national lottery . There was also a note from the Ministry reminding the paper not to carry topless photos of women dancers, apparently in relation to a visiting African dance troupe .
Strict Moral Policing: Mingguan Malaysia was a Malaysian publication circulating in Singapore. The file carries correspondence on requirements or reminders for applying for a printing permit. The close vetting reveals articles highlighting racial differences between Chinese and Malays, stories of "sex in the back of a motorcar" , kissing scenes and nudity, some of which triggered complaints from a Malay MP in Parliament .
This file shows the strict moral policing of a Malay publication, in particular, and threats to withdraw its permit to print. Letters in the file, for example, conveyed the Ministry's stern warning to the newspaper to "desist from publishing any articles that are morally objectionable..." . Nonetheless, the publication was subsequently issued with a printing permit.
Sale And Distribution Ban: The 1950s were the height of the battle between the communists and the colonial administration for the hearts and minds of the people of Singapore. Established in 1948, Yeh Teng Semi-Weekly, a Chinese language newspaper, had gained the support of the broad masses of young readers with its leftist articles extolling the progress and achievements of Red China, highlighting overseas Chinese interest in developments in China, and spreading anti-American and anti-Taiwan propaganda.
In June 1955, the newspaper's permit to sell was revoked although the ban was lifted the following year. Circulation was greatly affected by the ban. It then changed tactics and published more Malayan news. However, after toeing the line for a short time, the paper returned to its stance of strong support for Peking and criticism of Western powers.
On 1 August 1958, the Federal Government decided to withdraw its permit for newspapers which undermined the loyalties of the Chinese in the Federation and published articles that put the Government in an unfavourable light, such as strikes and employment problems. Singapore followed suit and revoked the permit of Yeh Teng Pao on 22 October 1958 . The sale and distribution of the paper were banned, together with a bunch of other similar newspapers .
Sale And Distribution Ban: This file reveals the close attention paid by the colonial authorities on leftist Chinese publications. Translated to mean "The Masses", Jen Wern is a Chinese newspaper banned in 1954 under the Emergency (Newspaper) Regulations, 1951 for reproducing extracts of leftist publications. The Colonial Secretary issued the Prohibition Order by way of a Government Gazette . The paper was deemed to be anti-British, with its commentaries assessed to focus too much on "discrimination by, and the superiority complex of, British officials" and nationals living in colonial Singapore .
Controversial Publications: Eastern Sun was a controversial newspaper in Singapore's media history. It was granted a permit under the Printing Presses Ordinance and applied to be a tabloid in June 1970. However, in May 1971, following government disclosure of communist funding of the newspaper and involvement of external countries, the paper was one of the first newspapers (together with the Singapore Herald) to be banned in independent Singapore .