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The Straits Times (ST) has accused Dr Chee Soon Juan of casting “serious and unfounded aspersions” on its integrity and wants the SDP secretary-general to retract them.
Forum Editor Mr Yap Koon Hong also said that the newspaper would withold publishing Dr Chee’s replies to letters unless Dr Chee retracted the offending articles.
The matter started when the ST Online Forum published a host of letters about three weeks ago on 17 Apr 10 attacking Dr Chee (see here). Within days the SDP leader wrote a total of six letters in reply.
When Mr Yap finally responded after a lapse of more than a week, he took issue with Dr Chee’s criticism that the ST had unfairly edited his previous letters (see here and here). Mr Yap also wrote that Dr Chee “failed to acknowledge that the editing was, in fact, done with your (Dr Chee’s) concurrence.”
Mr Yap concluded that, as a result, Dr Chee had “cast serious and unfounded aspersions” on the integrity of the newspaper. He wanted the SDP leader to retract those comments and added that, in the meantime, the ST “will withhold” publishing his letters to the Forum page.
Below is Dr Chee’s response to Mr Yap.
5 May 2010
Dear Mr Yap Koon Hong,
You say that I have “cast serious and unfounded aspersions on the integrity” of the Straits Times. In case you haven’t noticed the press in Singapore is ranked in the Freedom House’s 2010 Press Freedom survey 151st out of 192 countries – alongside Niger and sandwiched between Qatar and Bahrain. The Reporters Without Borders’ survey places you thereabouts as well.
Given your global lack of credibility, my thinking is that what I write about the Straits Times in the SDP’s website is the least of your problems.
You say that my accusations of you unfairly editing my replies are untrue. Let’s check: I had sent you my letter entitled “Yes, let’s go with a system that works for Singapore” in reply to a letter by a Mr Patrick Tan who had accused me of engaging in confrontational politics.
I pointed out that the PAP is the one that is violently confrontational. But when I am merely standing up – peacefully – for Singaporeans’ constitutional rights, I am accused of being confrontational. How can that be?
And yet, you changed the headline of my reply to “PAP Just As Confrontational, Replies Chee” implying that I am admitting to being confrontational, just like the PAP. Is this fair editing?
You also say in your email that I “failed to acknowledge that the editing was, in fact, done with [my] concurrence.” Allowing my replies to be published with your deletions in no way signals my concurrence with anything.
You know as well as I do that if I did not consent to your editing, my replies would not be published as has been the case in the past (see here). I had no choice but to agree to your terms before your readers can read my replies. With no other newspaper companies to contend with, you have the monopoly on what you allow Singaporeans to read.
But I don’t have to concur with your censorship. I retain the right to publish on the SDP’s website the portions of my reply which you have taken out.
By asking me to retract the articles, what you really want is for me to censor myself. There is enough of self-censorship going around in Singapore and I would be loathe to contribute to it.
Let me suggest an altogether more worthy alternative: The SDP will publish all the correspondence regarding this matter on our website and we will give you your right to a full reply – unedited. In return, you will do the same on the ST’s website and guarantee me my right to a full reply – unedited.
If you really value your credibility then I am sure you would have no problem accepting my suggestion as it is the better of the two options. Why? Because your proposal censors and keeps readers in the dark, mine shines light and keeps everyone informed.
At the end of the day, we put our cases before the people and let them be the judge of who is the unreasonable and untruthful party. I am willing to do this. Is the Straits Times?
In the interest of transparency and public knowledge I will post this email to you on the SDP’s website and would like your permission to do the same for your email to me (2 May 2010) so that readers can be fully informed.
Chee Soon Juan
Note: At the publishing of this report, Mr Yap had still not replied to Dr Chee’s above email.