The Straits Times has taken down an article that allegedly contained “highly defamatory” claims against The Online Citizen (TOC) after it was issued a letter of demand by TOC editor Terry Xu.
The contentious article was a forum letter that the Straits Times had published last Sunday (29 Sept). The letter referred to Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam’s recent remarks on how foreign elements must be countered and restricted in any attempt to influence local socio-political matters.
Claiming that Mr Xu allowed “foreigners to write negative articles about Singapore and then pass(ed) them off as being written by Singaporeans,” the letter writer said: “…what is disturbing about TOC’s articles criticising Singapore is that they were masqueraded as pieces written by Singaporeans when in fact the writers were foreigners.”
She also wondered whether “TOC can assure Singaporeans that it will not lie about its writers’ backgrounds again.”
While TOC does employ foreign writers who comment on local current affairs, the publication never lied about the backgrounds of its writers nor did it pass articles written by foreigners as pieces written by Singaporeans. The publication made no attempt to “masquerade” the fact that it hires foreign writers.
Under Singapore’s rules and regulations, a socio-political website like TOC must be managed by a Singaporean(s) who must declare his/her name to the Info-Communications Media Development Authority (IMDA). There is no law that states such a publication cannot hire foreign writers.
In a Facebook post published yesterday (1 Oct), Mr Xu revealed that he sent Singapore Press Holdings – the parent company of the Straits Times – a letter of demand asking the publication to remove the letter and undertake that they will not publish similar allegations.
While Mr Xu is unaware as to whether the Straits Times has made such an undertaking, he noted that the letter has since been removed from the Straits Times website. He wrote:
“Last Sunday, Straits Times published a letter which contained highly defamatory allegations in its ST forum. In response to the letter, I wrote a letter of demand to the editors of Singapore Press Holdings yesterday, to demand that they take down the letter and to undertake not to repeat the same act.
“While I have not been told of the undertaking by SPH that they will not repeat the allegations, ST has since removed the letter. I did not ask for an apology or damages from SPH because I just want to see that the right thing is done.
“There have been a lot of insinuations made about The Online Citizen recently and this has caused members of public to hold untrue views of the site. I do not fault the writer for having the views that she had but ST should have known better than to publish a letter that contained falsehoods especially when it refers to itself as the best antibiotics to “fake news”.