Tabloid Democracy: The Paradox of Press Freedom in Asia and Europe


Through a comparative study of the media experience in Southeast Asia, this lecture will attempt to show that the deregulated media environments and unbridled commercialisation of the press in these countries threaten to trivialise public discourse on one hand, and sensationalise, if not exacerbate political and ethnic conflict, on the other. The experience of democratic transition in Asia and in the new democracies in Europe, show a similar contradiction of political underdevelopment despite the presence of a newly assertive and free press.

Indeed, even as citizens jealously hold on to their hard earned liberties, many public intellectuals and reformers within the media ask: why is more freedom of the press creating less meaningful political engagement among citizens and less accountability among their leaders? How can we continue to guard our free and independent press while instituting reforms that enable it to credibly assert itself in the public sphere? How can the press serve as a watchdog to the powerful in an environment where the pressures of the market place are compounded by political and economic underdevelopment?

ASEF Lecture Tours are designed to provide a platform for emerging or well-established "leaders of opinion" of Asian and European civil societies to address an informed audience on issues pertaining to bridging the cultural and civilisational differences between Asia and Europe.