May 10th, 2010
The Straits Times Forum editor Yap Koon Hong has told opposition politician Chee Soon Juan that he would be denied space in the Forum pages until he withdrew his “serious and unfounded aspersions” on the integrity of the newspaper. He was responding to previous reports on the SDP website which implied that The Straits Times had unfairly edited certain portions of Chee’s letters before publishing them.
Chee, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary general, had written to the newspaper on two separate occasions. On 17 March, the newspaper published Chee’s response to Lianhe Zaobao journalist Yew Tun Lian’s claims that he had been evasive to questions about foreign funding in an interview. On 15 April, Chee responded to a forum letter that had condemned his confrontational style of politics. On both occasions, shortened versions of his letters were published both in print and on the online forums. The original version of the letters have been posted on the SDP website.
In an email reply to Yap dated 5 May, Chee took issue with the fact that the title of his second letter had been changed to “PAP just as confrontational, replies Chee”, which implied that he was indeed confrontational. In fact, newspapers rarely use the headlines suggested by writers and most readers know that headlines, together with picture selection and captions, are the work of sub-editors and not writers.
The SDP website shows that almost half of Chee’s letter was deleted before publication. The original text was 635 words long. Forum page letters are generally less than 400 words long. The published version of Chee’s letter was 348 words long.
Chee also questioned Yap’s claims that The Straits Times‘ integrity had been damaged by the SDP’s articles, citing how the Singapore media was already ranked lowly in international press freedom rankings.
The SDP website reported that Yap wanted Chee to retract his statements about the integrity of The Straits Times, and that the newspaper would withhold publishing his letters in the forum pages until he did so.
Click here to read SDP’s report on the issue.
Click here to read Journalism.sg’s coverage of Chee’s interview with Lianhe Zaobao journalist Yew Tun Lian