SINGAPORE -- The Singapore government announced Friday the Asian Wall Street Journal would be allowed to increase its circulation here from 3,500 to 5,000 copies starting July 1.
It said the publication also will be allowed to have a correspondent stationed here for the first time since 1988.
However, the Journal remains 'gazetted,' which means that its circulation is capped. The announcement essentially gives the newspaper permission to restore its local circulation back to the level it had in 1987, the year its dispute with the Singapore government began.
'It's absolutely a step forward, but in 1987 we had the right to sell as many copies as people wanted to buy,' said Urban Lehner, editor of the Journal. 'Although we still don't have that right, we're clearly better off than we've been in six years.'
In February of 1987, the Singapore government restricted the newspaper's circulation from 5,000 to 400 copies, following a dispute over an article on the country's proposed secondary stock exchange. The government said the story interfered in domestic politics.
The episode escalated into a row with the U.S. State Department after a U.S. spokesman expressed regret over Singapore's restrictions on the Jtournal and Time magazine.
Other publications that have run afoul of the Singapore government over the years and had their circulations slashed include The Far Eastern Economic Review and Asiaweek. The government has long maintained that foreign publications circulate in Singapore as a privilege, not a right.
From 1988 until October 1991, the Journal was not allowed to have a correspondent in Singapore, nor could any of its reporters visit the country. In October 1991, a correspondent was allowed back in for a few days a month. With the latest easing of restrictions, the Journal plans to transfer Pierre Goad, a Canadian, from Hong Kong to Singapore in July. He had previously been allowed to spend 14 days a month in the Singapore.
If circulation again hits 5,000, Singapore will be the Journal's third-largest market. It now sells 12,000 copies in Hong Kong and 6,500 in Japan.