Until a few weeks ago the Asian Wall Street Journal had a circulation of 5,100 copies a day in Singapore. Now, by government fiat, it may sell only 400 copies a day. The ban imposed on the paper isn't unique. Time magazine used to sell 18,000 copies a week in Singapore. Last October the government slashed that to 9,000 copies, and in January cut it still further to 2,000. The reason for these harsh restrictions is that Singapore is punishing the publications for refusing to print letters from government officials.
Time and the Asian Journal will both survive Singapore's effort to limit their audiences. The real losers are Singaporeans who now are denied access to the publications. Recognizing in particular the effect of this policy on Singapore's important business community, the Asian Journal has asked permission to distribute the paper free of charge to its previous subscribers. Singapore agreed, but on condition that the free copies carry no advertising. The Asian Journal, pointing out that news and advertising are integral parts of any paper, refused this condition.
The government acted under a disturbing law enacted last July giving it the power to curb any foreign publication held to be "engaging in the domestic politics of Singapore." Such a finding was made after the government objected to stories in Time and the Asian Journal, alleging both reportorial bias and factual errors and demanding that each publish in full an official response.