Activist accuses The Straits Times of twisting her words by adding and removing text without permission

Activist Jolene Tan has accused The Straits Times (ST) of removing parts of an opinion-editorial she wrote, inserting text that she didn’t contribute, and changing some of her phrasing into “stigmatising language.”

The article – titled ‘Be child-centric all the way, including in housing’ – was published in the mainstream publication last week, and was about the housing challenges children from single-parent households face.

Tan, the Association of Women for Action and Research’s (Aware) head of advocacy and research, alleged that the paper had made the following changes to her piece when the article was first published and said that she was not informed of these changes before the article was published:

The Straits Times made the following changes to my text. I did not know of these changes before the op-ed went to print.
1. They added the following: “Most policies in Singapore are indeed child-friendly. In fact, we even have generous grants to encourage couples to have children.”
2. They removed the following: “In any case, fears about the possible costs of child-centred thinking may be unfounded. Japan has found that reducing legal discrimination against unmarried mothers did not increase their numbers.
But we need look no further than our own past to see another precedent: unmarried mothers could access subsidised HDB flats until the mid-1990s. In 1994, then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong announced an intention to revoke this access in order to signal moral disapproval. Yet in the same speech he also acknowledged that “few children [were] born out of wedlock” under the status quo then prevailing.”
Edited to add: I also DID NOT use the stigmatising language of “broken relationships” in describing divorced individuals. This is an insertion by the newspaper. I am really quite upset by this.

In an update, Tan clarified that an editor representing ST reached out to her, to apologise and edit most of the text back to reflect her original intentions.

ST also carried a correction on the online version of the article:

Despite making attempts to correct the mistake, ST still did not change the new text it inserted into the article, the line “Most policies in Singapore are indeed child-friendly. In fact, we even have generous grants to encourage couples to have children.” even though Tan specifically requested its removal.

It appears that this is not the first time ST has edited the meaning of contributors’ articles without verification or authorisation. Local activists Jolovan Wham, Stephanie Chok and Visakan Veerasamy are among those who have reported facing the same issue as Tan:

UPDATE on Sunday 24 September at about 10.16pm:Thank you to everyone who reached out supportively over this. The…

Posted by Jolene Tan on Friday, 22 September 2017