News agency AFP asked me for a comment for its report on the demands by the Attorney General for several websites and Facebook pages to remove certain postings and comments. The AG made the demands because it felt that such comments – about the judgement of 25 months jail for a Chinese national who had hijacked a taxi and subsequently killed a cleaner in an accident – would “pose a real risk that public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined.”
My comments to AFP, which it subsequently published in its report, were:
“Our public institutions and public officials should accept and allow a wider threshold for criticisms from the public, including those online.”
All these reports carried the AFp’s original headline too: “Singapore judiciary demands apology for web backlash“.
They all also carried the comments I made about public institutions and public officials.
And then there is the Channel Newsasia report – which apparently was an edited version of the AFP report. Indeed, the attribution at the end of the report on its website is “CNA/AFP/jc”. (I’m not sure what “jc” stands for.)
The CNA report included a re-written first paragraph, the insertion of a new paragraph, and the deletion of the following two paragraphs, including the comments I made:
Some bloggers voiced dismay with the apology demand, citing it as an example of an attempt by the government to clamp down on rising online dissent.
“Our public institutions and public officials should accept and allow a wider threshold for criticisms from the public, including those online,” Andrew Loh, a socio-political blogger, told AFP.
To be sure, there is nothing wrong in news outlets like CNA tweaking, editing or re-writing syndicated news pieces to suit its audience or its own editorial guidelines. I have no problems, really, with CNA having that prerogative. It is quite a usual practice.
My question, however, is why did it censor the remarks about our public institutions and public officials needing to have wider thresholds for criticisms, when other news sites included it in full? I would think that it is totally relevant, in light of recent incidents.
I wonder if CNA’s censorship has anything to do with the current “sensitivity” to such remarks about public institutions – and how one can genuinely question these institutions’ integrity without attracting the strong arm of the Attorney General’s Chambers.
Here’re the CNA report and the original AFP report (carried here by insing.com):