NEW YORK - WITH its small population and short history, Singapore cannot withstand - nor is it prepared to accept - the possible harmful consequences of having its media become like the American press, said Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam.

The US media has a wider and freer role than the press in most other countries. But American society, being large, rich and stable, is strong enough to endure the potential damage of having a media that does not always live up to its ideals of being judicious, fair and independent, he said.

Mr Shanmugam drew these comparisons in a speech outlining Singapore's perspective on the role of the media at Columbia University on Thursday.

The US, he told the audience at a university forum on A Free Press for a Global Society, 'has in-built stability'.

'There can be fringe lunatic behaviour, but mainstream Americans are sensible and rational, and extremist sentiment will not threaten the very fabric of society,' he noted.

In many developing societies, however, the glue holding society together is not as strong and 'these societies can easily rupture along tribal, ethnic and religious lines,' he said. n Singapore's case, racial and religious fault lines can be easily exploited.

Risks in having free press