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Did Today “ascertain the facts”?

This is a report from the Today newspaper on 30 April 2010. Note that the report carries no name of the author.

Note TOC’s remarks after the article.

SINGAPORE - Even as Al Jazeera stands by its report on homelessness in Singapore, which it feels is factually correct because the couple interviewed were "locked out of the system of state support because of bureaucratic regulation", the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) blasted the channel again for saying that the couple's profits made from previous home sales were not relevant to its story.

The ministry also suggested Al Jazeera may be guilty of unprofessional conduct, as the woman who was videotaped had now told the MCYS she was not aware her statements were for reporting.

She had thought she was speaking to volunteers offering to help her.

On Tuesday, MCYS Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament the man had made a profit of $224,000 from the sales of several subsidised Housing and Development Board flats, while the woman had been receiving financial assistance since last July.

The couple also refused an offer to move to sheltered housing, said Dr Balakrishnan.

Yesterday, Al Jazeera English executive producer Marcus Cheek said: "The real point of (the) story was to illustrate how the safety net in Singapore sometimes fails to catch those who have fallen on hard times - whatever their background - because of the rules governing access to assistance."

When contacted, Dr Bala-krishnan's press secretary, Ms Ho Moon Shin, dismissed Al Jazeera's claims as "illogical".

Despite the profits from the sales, she pointed out that the couple continued to receive financial and social assistance from the Government and voluntary welfare organisations.

"On the contrary, this episode illustrates an accessible, flexible and responsive safety net for Singaporeans," Ms Ho added.

Mr Cheek said yesterday the MCYS was invited twice to respond to the claims made in the report, but declined Al Jazeera's request for an interview.

"Nevertheless, our reporter did include a previous statement from Dr Balakrishnan defending the Singaporean Government's approach to the problem of homelessness and we would like to renew our invitation to Dr Balakrishnan to appear on the channel to discuss this issue," he added.

Ms Ho, however, countered that the MCYS was "also very concerned" that the woman had claimed she was not aware Al Jazeera had recorded her statement for broadcasting.

"She was under the mistaken impression that these were volunteers offering to help her.

"If this is indeed the case, then Al Jazeera also stands guilty of abusing the trust of the interviewee and unprofessional conduct," Ms Ho said.

The Government, she added, is committed to ensuring that every Singaporean has proper housing and will continue to provide appropriate assistance.

"Our approach is based on the time-tested values of hard work, thrift, self-reliance, family responsibility and community support for those in need," Ms Ho said.

"The result has been high growth, low unemployment, high savings and the highest home-ownership rates in the world."

**When contacted by TOC, Samiah said she has neither met with nor received any calls or visits from officials from MCYS to date.