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Those of you who have been following the on-going saga of the Straits Times‘ refusal to publish Dr Chee Soon Juan’s reply to Mr Paul Fernandez may think you’ve seen and heard it all from the newspaper.
Well, you haven’t.
The latest twist from Mr Yap Koon Hong, the Forum Editor, is that the Straits Times will not publish Dr Chee’s letter because – now hold on to your seat – the newspaper “does not carry letters which have been published elsewhere.” Elsewhere being the SDP website.
What has the reply being posted on the SDP’s website anything to do with the Straits Times publishing it in the page that carried Mr Fernandez’s letter?
The Straits Times is a national daily, albeit a state-controlled one. The SDP’s website is, well, a political party website. The readership is vastly different.
Dr Chee’s was not an unsolicited letter already published in another newspaper. If this were the case, the Straits Times would have a valid reason to not reproduce the letter. In this instance, however, Dr Chee’s letter was a reply sent to the Straits Times in response to a specific letter carried by the same newspaper.
And why this reason now? Remember that the newspaper said when it first received Dr Chee’s letter: “We will publish it if you trim it down and confine it to the issues raised by Mr Paul Fernandez.”
Note that the concerns were, one, the letter’s length and, two, the pertinence of its contents. There was no mention about the reply being posted on the SDP’s website which, by the way, was done four days earlier.
One week later (and 11 days after Dr Chee’s reply was posted on the website), the Straits Times repeated its position: “We shall publish your letter if you confine it to the issues raised by Mr Paul Fernandez.”
Again, no mention of the fact that the SDP had already posted Dr Chee’s reply on its website.
When Dr Chee emailed Mr Yap a third time, this time asking the editor to point out which parts of the letter were not pertinent, he received this reply today: “I note that you have published your reply on the Singapore Democratic Party website. As a matter of policy, The Straits Times Forum page does not carry letters which have been published elsewhere.”
Apparently not wanting to point out which parts of Dr Chee’s letter were not relevant, the newspaper now changes tack and, for the first time in more than two weeks, says that it would not publish it for this reason.
If this is really the case, why does the newspaper regularly reproduce op-ed pieces written in other newspapers?
And why does the Straits Times publish stories from the PAP even though they are posted on the party’s website?
The truth is not because Dr Chee’s letter was posted on the SDP’s website and therefore, under Straits Times policy, ruled out from being published in the Forum page.
No, it is that the media will publish criticisms of the Singapore Democrats but will find all sorts of excuses for not publishing our replies – unless, of course, they can be amended to the point acceptable to the PAP.
The length of the letters, pertinence of the points, and the publication elsewhere are just unseemly excuses adopted by an unseemly organisation passing itself off as the media.