Mainstream media (MSM) publications like the Straits Times – Singapore Press Holdings’ flagship English paper – continue to remain averse to publishing news stories about founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s youngest son, Lee Hsien Yang and his family.
The Straits Times has even gone to the extent of redacting news it had published about Mr Lee and his family.
Mr Lee and his wife Lee Suet Fern accompanied their son and his husband to the 11th annual Pink Dot gathering, that was held last Saturday (29 June). Photos of the family’s appearance at the lesbian, gay, transgender and transsexual (LGBT) pride event quickly drew attention and went viral online.
Mr Lee’s presence at the event was notable for a number of reasons – first, because he is Lee Kuan Yew’s son and the younger brother of current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who recently said that Section 377A – a law that criminalises gay sex – will not be repealed in Singapore anytime soon.
Mr Lee and his sister, Lee Kuan Yew’s only daughter and middle child Lee Wei Ling, have been entangled in a bitter feud with their elder brother that publicly erupted in 2017 when they accused PM Lee of abusing his power to preserve their family home against their father’s willed desire to demolish the house, in order to bolster his grip on power.
PM Lee cleared himself of this charge and others that his siblings have levelled against him in Parliament, where his siblings have had no opportunity to speak for themselves.
Despite a ceasefire that the younger siblings offered, the siblings’ relationship with PM Lee seems to have become even more fractured when the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) initiated legal action against Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s wife and son.
Besides being noteworthy because of his family’s background and the obstacles he faces, Mr Lee Hsien Yang’s appearance at Pink Dot over the weekend was also significant because it marked the first time that Mr and Mrs Lee attended such an event in Singapore.
In their coverage of Pink Dot 2019, the Straits Times mentioned the Lees’ presence at Pink Dot but curiously edited this section out an hour after the story was published, removing any mention of the Lees’ attendance at the event despite the clear newsworthiness of this information.
The organising team behind Pink Dot noticed this and pointed out on social media: “Looking at the report as it is now, you can clearly see that the entire section mentioning Mr Lee’s family and the photo of the four of them wearing Pink at the rally was removed entirely from the report.
“We also note that ST hasn’t published any other reports on the Pink Dot rally, so it’s unlikely that the mention of Mr Lee’s family attending the event was merely shifted to a different article.
“This isn’t the first time that a story relating to Mr Lee Hsien Yang and his family has been censored. As mentioned above, Mr Li Huanwu got married in May this year. However, ST did not carry that news despite it being a rather newsworthy story regarding a member of one of the most visible families in Singapore.”
Pink Dot added that the Straits Times also deleted statements it had previously published by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore and a member of Pink Dot’s organising committee.
As the group correctly pointed out, MSM seems to be selective in its coverage about Mr Lee and his family and appears to regularly practice censorship by omission when it comes to positive news about Mr Lee’s family.
While MSM publications like The Straits Times, TODAY and Channel NewsAsia are quick to cover the Attorney-General’s Chambers’ (AGC) actions against Mr Lee’s wife and son, they have failed to report on Li Huanwu’s wedding, Li Shengwu’s international achievements in mathematics, Lee Suet Fern’s international award for knitting or Dr Lee Wei Ling’s rebuttals against MSM reports, in defense of her family.
There are close ties between the directors of SPH – the Straits Times’ parent company – and the Singapore Government.
S. R. Nathan, Director of the Security and Intelligence Division and later President of Singapore, served as SPH’s Executive chairman from 1982 to 1988. SPH’s first President (1994–2002) was Tjong Yik Min, former chief of the Internal Security Department.
The immediate former Chairman of SPH, Tony Tan, was Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore from 1994 to 2005 and President of Singapore from 2011 to 2017. Dr Lee Boon Yang is the current chairman of Singapore Press Holdings. Former Chief of Defence Force Ng Yat Chung is the current CEO since 1 September 2017.
A US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks several years ago caused a stir after it quoted former Straits Times bureau chief for the US Chua Chin Hon as saying that SPH’s “editors have all been groomed as pro-government supporters and are careful to ensure that reporting of local events adheres closely to the official line”.
Chua purportedly added that “The government exerts significant pressure on ST editors to ensure that published articles follow the government’s line.” Wikileaks further revealed:
“Chua said that unless one of the editors is a “Trojan Horse,” someone that for years has successfully concealed any non pro-government leanings, none of them has the courage to publish any stories critical of the government.
“While Chua admitted that he knew of no editors who had been fired or otherwise punished for printing articles critical of the government, he said that is because all of the them have been vetted to ensure their pro-government leanings.”
Read the full Wikileaks cable HERE.