The Singapore Government has alleged that the online publication, TR Emeritus (TRE), has sought to mislead the public by publishing a claim that Mr Heng Swee Keat is “fully entitled to free A-Class healthcare in government and restructured hospitals”. The article gave its readers the impression that Mr Heng’s medical expenses are being funded by taxpayers.
Calling that article a “blatant lie” the Government said that if the editors had checked facts, they would have realised that “Ministers in Singapore are on the same medical benefit scheme (the Medisave-cum-Subsidised Outpatient (MSO) scheme) as most civil servants.”
The Government asserted that Ministers receive no extra benefits for themselves or for their spouses and children.
In saying that “all Ministers and other political office-holders pay tax,” the Government clarified that “Minister Heng’s hospitalisation is most certainly not borne by taxpayers’ monies.”
The Government further took the editor of TRE to task for adding a caveat at the end of the said article that he wishes Minister Heng well, but decided to reproduce the “letter” anyway to “show an alternative angle to his situation and the underlying socio-political issues”.
The clarification said, a lie is not an “alternative angle” and that “choosing to run an article that contained glaring misinformation that could have been easily searched and verified online is irresponsible.”
TRE has apologised for publishing the article, which it explained was a comment left by a netizen on one of its earlier article.
In another Facebook post TRE’s editors said that it was never their intention to misrepresent the facts.
“We had believed that the facts provided by the writer was true because there was indeed a scheme (in the past) when civil servants was fully covered by the states for injuries and sickness during working hours,” it said, adding that since Mr Heng was in a Cabinet meeting when he collapsed, it was “natural to assume” that the State would cover his medical expenses.
The former editor of TRE, Richard Wan, resigned from the publication’s editorial team soon after the last General Election in September 2015. He was the only known editor of the online publication. It is unknown who the current editors of the website are.
The website’s readership seem to have been drastically affected soon after the departure of Mr Wan from the website.
Commenting on the Government’s clarification of TRE’s article, Pritam Singh, MP for Aljunied GRC agreed that “freedom of expression comes with responsibility,” but said that “depending on the context, the boundaries of such expression can be unclear and difficult to determine, even to the most seasoned journalists and editors.”
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