“The New Paper had become aware of the investigation after Mr Ng was picked up in late December.” – The New Paper dated 25 January 2012
This comment from The New Paper seems to suggest that the mainstream media (msm) were well aware that Singapore Civil Defence Force’s Commissioner, Peter Lim Sin Pang, and Director of the Central Narcotics Bureau, Ng Boon Gay, have been relieved of their positions and were being probed by CPIB over ‘allegations of serious personal misconduct’, about a month ago.
Why then did the msm choose to publish this, almost sneakily, during the Chinese New Year holidays when most people pay scant attention to news?
Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Law and Home Affairs, Hri Kumar Nair, responding to the news reportedly said, ‘The authorities are doing what they are expected to do. Let’s not jump to conclusions and start making judgments before the authorities have finished investigations.’
Were the msm delaying the release of this news because they were concerned that the general public would jump to conclusions? I certainly hope not.
It is right for the Government (and related agencies) to worry about the implications such news would create, especially when it’s so close to the Ministerial Salary debate in Parliament. The release of this news before the debate would have surely undermined the ruling Party’s longstanding argument that top salaries for top people would weed out corruption.
But such concerns should not be that of the media, unless they have been co-opted by the establishment (also read Ng E-Jay article ‘Time to free up Singapore’s media’ HERE).
And no, the msm need not sensationalise the issue, that the duo and some others are under investigation in a case concerning ‘money and women’; but report it factually, naming the senior officers from the Ministry of Home Affairs, that they are being investigated by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB), and that they are now out on bail assisting CPIB in their investigations.
TREmeritus said in their report on the issue that they received a tip-off about the arrest about 10 days ago. Did the msm release the news when it did, only because the socio-political blogs were getting wind of the investigations and were concerned that they (msm) would look very bad if the alternative media released the news first – and worse, if it is confirmed to be true?
More important than asking, “Why were the investigations and suspensions only revealed after a newspaper broke the story?”, is the question, “Why was the story of the investigations and suspensions broken by the newspapers almost a month after they had the lead?”
One certainly doesn’t get a prize for guessing that all governments everywhere try to cover-up their shortcomings, or where they cannot, delay relaying the information till a more convenient time. And the Government of Singapore is no exception.
But the difference in most other countries is, the press which is free, keeps the government on their toes, to ensure that such serious personal misconducts by people holding senior positions in the establishment are exposed in the shortest possible time.
Yes, the Government of Singapore must surely be appreciated for its zero tolerance approach towards corruption, for they certainly did not spare the duo (and the rest under them) because they were senior officials. And you can’t really call them tardy for releasing the news of the investigations in a more timely manner; because they were only acting in their own self-interest, like any other government in the world would have.
But the mainstream media? What excuse do they have? Especially when besides the two senior government officers, a staff of a Government Linked Corporation, ST Electronics, is also seemingly implicated in this case (see HERE).
Mr P N Balji, former-editorial director of Mediacorp, said (in 2008), “Ideally, the public should be putting the pressure on the media, but do we have a perceptive and sophisticated community generally who can tell the difference between good and not-so-good journalism?”
Mr Balji may have implied that as a community, we are not as perceptive or sophisticated, and so deserve the kind of media we have here.
Is that also the reason why we are placed at 135/179 countries in the press freedom index 2011/2012 (see HERE).
More than the government, this issue casts a spotlight on the sad state of the mainstream media in Singapore. And we surely cannot be wrong when we demand higher standards from them.
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