The irresponsible Straits Times

Andrew Loh

On 11 June 2010, the Straits Times reported on the press conference by Mr Madasamy Ravi [Click on picture, left]. Mr Ravi is the lawyer for Yong Vui Kong, a 22-year old Malaysian who is facing execution under Singapore’s drug laws for having trafficked heroin into the country in 2007.

At the press conference, Mr Ravi outlined his reasons for seeking the help of the Malaysian government to intervene to save his client from being hanged in Singapore. At the heart of his appeal are certain facts about the case which he finds have prejudiced his client’s constitutional rights. Namely, that the Singapore Law Minister had made direct remarks pertaining to whether Yong should be hanged – a week before the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement on Yong’s final appeal to the judicial system. “Yong Vui Kong is young,” the Minister said on 11 June. “But if we say we let you go what’s the signal we’re sending?

Also, Mr Ravi questioned the Singapore Attorney General’s claims, made in the Court of Appeal on 15 March, that it was the Cabinet which decides on clemency petitions “although in theory it’s the President who exercises the prerogative of mercy…”

These were the two main reasons for Mr Ravi asking the help of the Malaysian government to intervene and seek a ruling from the International Court of Justice to ascertain if the comments made by Singapore’s minister and the Attorney General had “[offended]the rules of natural justice, due process and the Constitution which itself grants the right to seek clemency from the President.”

Now, if one reads the Straits Times’ report, which was tucked at the bottom of the page, there is no mention whatsoever of these reasons or explanations given by Mr Ravi.

Anyone reading the Straits Times’ report would have gone away with the impression that Mr Ravi was asking the Malaysian government to seek the ICJ’s judgement so as to simply “save him [Yong] from execution”, in the words of the Straits Times’ report.

There is no mention of what the Singapore Law Minister had said – the timing of his remarks and the controversial nature of its content.

There is no mention of what the Attorney General had said which brings up the question of the President’s independence.

Mr Ravi’s grounds for seeking the Malaysian government’s intervention were entirely omitted by the Straits Times.

It truly is highly irresponsible reporting – a brand of “journalism” which belongs to the gutter.

Compare the reports of other news agencies and even bloggers, all of which reported Mr Ravi’s points about the Law Minister’s comments and the Attorney General’s remarks.

Go to these websites and read for yourselves.

Malaysiakini’s report

Klik 4 Malaysia.

Guang Ming Daily

Sin Chew Daily

China Press

Oriental Daily News

The Sun

Sun2Surf

Funny Little World

On 27 April 2010, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports had accused certain websites of being “irresponsible” in “spreading falsehoods” about the plight of homeless people in Singapore.

The mainstream media, on the other hand, were touted as “accurate, timely and balanced in their reporting” by the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, in February this year. (See here)

Yet, here we have the Straits Times – which sees itself as a professional outfit and Singapore’s main English broadsheet – seemingly doing its utmost to avoid reporting the salient points in this particular case.

One can only wonder why its reporter, who we understand was at the press conference held by Mr Ravi and the Malaysian Bar Council in Kuala Lumpur, thought that the main thrusts of the conference were not important and did not deserve mention.

Its report is irresponsible in that, by omission, it is misleading the public and it borders on misrepresentation.

Thankfully, the Internet allows fellow bloggers and other news websites to shed light on what transpired at the press conference. Readers now know the facts and issues raised by Mr Ravi.

As for the Straits Times (and the Singapore local media), it continues to bury its head in the sand – refusing to report on the many issues which have surfaced in Yong’s case. Perhaps our local media are hoping not to risk potentially offending the powers-that-be, even as a boy faces imminent death.

In the words of Dr Balakrishnan, it is indeed highly irresponsible and certainly, the behavior of the Straits Times is far removed from one which is “accurate, timely and balanced”.

Shamefully far from it.

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Read TOC’s report of the press conference : Lawyer urges Malaysian government to intervene in death row case.

Also: TOC Editorial: Media’s silence on Yong Vui Kong a national shame.

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