On 19 October 2013, I posted an email on this blog, titled, “Stoking hatred and ill will”, which I had sent to the following:
– Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
– Acting Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan Jin.
– Minister of State, MCI, Sim Ann
– Perm Sec, MCI
The email was in response to various government ministers’ accusations of netizens “stoking hate and ill will”, in the words of Manpower Minister Tan Chuan Jin.
In that email, I highlighted instances of the mainstream media engaging in seemingly xenophobic and racist behaviour in its reports.
The Press Secretary to the Minister of MCI replied to the email on 31 October, almost 2 weeks after the email was sent.
Here is the content of that email, and my subsequent response:
Dear Mr Loh,
I refer to your email of 19 October 2013 to the Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
We are glad that you share our view that stoking ill-will and hatred does no one any good. This is a view the Government holds, irrespective of the medium in which such statements are made.
In the case of the Straits Times report that you cited, the paper had publicly acknowledged that the photograph might have given readers the wrong impression, and it had apologised for the needless and unintended offence.
The New Paper, in response to feedback received by the regulator, had expressed regret that the headline had moved the focus away to race, and it acknowledged that the headline should not have been used.
Apart from highlighting concerns with negative online behaviour, including those in STOMP, a user-generated site, the Government has also consistently pointed out that there are responsible online sites and responsible internet [sic] users.
In cases where there is inappropriate online behaviour but the party concerned acknowledges that they were wrong and makes appropriate amends, the Government has not pursued the matter further.
HAN Liang Yuan
Press Secretary to the Minister
The following is my reply to Mr Han on 4 November:
Dear Mr Han,
Thank you for your reply.
If I may, I’d like some clarification on what you said, namely these three points:
1. You said that the Straits Times “had apologised for the needless and unintended offence” in using the picture for the drug story. I am not sure where or when the Straits Times had offered any apologies for it. On its Facebook page on 15 Nov 2012, it posted a status update (pls see attached screenshot), and the link here. It did not apologise for the use of the insensitive picture. Its status update said:
“Some also felt that the picture accompanying the story was unfortunate. The photo could have been captioned better. It was taken in 2008 at the Pertapis Halfway House for recovering Malay-Muslim drug addicts.”
2. You said that The New Paper “had expressed regret that the headline had moved the focus away to race, and it acknowledged that the headline should not have been used.” And you explained that: “In cases where there is inappropriate online behaviour but the party concerned acknowledges that they were wrong and makes appropriate amends, the Government has not pursued the matter further.”
May I ask what “appropriate amends” The New Paper has made with regards to the matter concerned?
3. You said: “Apart from highlighting concerns with negative online behaviour, including those in STOMP… “, implying that the Government has spoken up against STOMP. May I know when this happened or occurred and could you point me to any public statements or remarks of this?
Finally, why has the Government not made public any of these exchanges it had had with the newspapers concerned, given that these are matters of public interest?