The chief editor of a local online publication has alleged that The Straits Times omitted some questions Minister for Law and Home Affairs K Shanmugam was asked at a recent forum, in the paper’s coverage of the event.
Terry Xu of The Online Citizen accused the mainstream broadsheet of failing to cover two potentially controversial questions Mr Shanmugam was asked at an event organised by the Association of Muslim Lawyers last Friday.
Xu alleged that the Minister was asked whether adultery should be criminalised and that he responded that the Government will consider whether it should be made illegal if the majority of people feel that it should be made so. Xu added that as the Minister was asked this question, “everyone in the hall laughed in spite of trying to hold it in.”
Noting that this question and another were not covered in The Straits Times’ report, Xu claimed:
“Now turning to Straits Times’ 417-words report of the event, there is simply no mention of this occurrence. And neither is there mention of another question that was posed to the Minister about whether the impending amendment to the law contains protection for the intellectually disabled accused and the Minister said there is no plan do so but there are already some measures in place. such as training the police to spot such individuals and have others to sit in during the interview.
“Lawyers stood up, using their personal experience to question the decision of not doing so, such as noting one case where 3 investigating officers took a client’s statement without noting that he can’t even read. When the one of the lawyers wanted to continue with his question, the President of AML stopped him from going further.
“One would suppose the above should be highlighted by the news but also recognise its political sensitivity.”
The paper’s coverage of the event instead focused on the Minister’s comments on an ongoing review of the Penal Code that was initiated as the Government seeks to do more to protect the vulnerable. The review may include new offenses and harsher punishments, so as to better protect children, domestic workers and disabled persons.
In his article, Xu indicated that The Straits Times made the decision to omit the two questions in its report because of its perceived links to the Government.
Referencing local playwright Tan Tarn How’s recently concluded production Press Gang – a play that delves into the working of a not-so-free press – Xu said: “The above mentioned is exactly the kind of editorial decision portrayed as the simple premise of the screenplay where a fictional newspaper “Singapore Times” has to decide whether a story makes it to its papers.”
He added: “When stakes are high, particularly for the editors who oversee the reporters and act as the gatekeepers for stories that might be negative for the establishment, stories are edited drastically or trashed completely.”
The Independent has reached out to Mr Shanmugam for his comments. We will update the article if we receive a response from the Minister.