By Terry Xu
It all started off as a gossip in the Eat drink man woman section of the Hardware forum that Ms Nicole Seah, Second Assistant Secretary-General of the National Solidarity Party is seeing a new boyfriend (link). Based on a photo she uploaded on her personal facebook account. A day later the Chinese newspaper, Lian He Wan Bao of the Singapore Press Holding (SPH) picked up the story and published an article on it.
For those who don't read Chinese, the headline reads: "佘雪玲有已婚男面簿上载亲密照" - (Translation - Nicole seah uploads photo with married man on facebook.)
In short, the article writes that the man in the photo is said to be a married man. Referenced to the earlier post she made on facebook and mentioned that it was captioned with ("Sweetheart" with a smiling face).
The man in the photo was named as Steven Goh and listed the comments that accompanied the uploaded photo.
The article then followed on to state that the man got married in 2009 and met his wife in Malaysia. Described his marriage as being unstable which started off as a long distance relationship with the wife later moving to San Francisco to live with him. The newspaper states at the end of the article that they were not able to get a reply from Ms Seah before the time of publishing.
So what is it that the newspaper trying to report on Ms Seah? Mentioning that the man in the photo is a married man especially with the headline? A casual reader would glance through the papers and assume that Ms Seah is having an affair with a married man. And seriously, was this story such a news breaker that it had to be published before Ms Seah could even reply to the papers?
Asiaone also posted an article based on the Chinese report and named the article, "Nicole Seah uploads photo of her with man believed to be married." (link)
Which for the casual reader would just read it off as Ms Seah is dating a married man, the same idea of what the headline of the Chinese article had implied.
The content is the about same but with a slight difference. It explicitly states that the man in the photo, Steven Goh was married in 2009 and divorced in 2011, so why the need to imply in the headline that she might be dating a married person?
Ms Nicole Seah has put up her response on both her personal facebook account as well as official fanpage condemning the two articles and described it as an example of gutter journalism. She says that no one had called her to clarify on the story and went ahead to publish the story.
There has been close to 900 shares and 4,500 likes of her status update at time of post.
After the massive upheaval on social media in regards to the two articles, the original headline on the wanbao online article has been changed from to, "佘雪玲有新恋情面簿大晒亲密照" (Translation- Nicole Seah has a new relationship, reveals intimate photo on facebook.) and Asiaone also initially changed its headline to "Nicole Seah says she is dating man in photo she uploaded in Facebook" but eventually ends up taking down the entire article from the website.
At point of post, Ms Seah followed up with another facebook post of exploring the possibility of suing the papers for libel and slander. She used the example of former Workers' Party MP, Yaw Shin Leong and former Parliament Speaker and PAP MP, Micheal Palmer to highlight the double standards of the reporting by mainsteam media.
She also asked for the assistance from the general public to write in to SPH to ask that they refrain from double standards and baseless accusations in their reporting.
Even though the headlines for both the Chinese and English articles online have been changed, and even taken down for the instance of the Asiaone article. But the damage has been done to Ms Nicole Seah's reputation especially that the printed Chinese newspapers are already in circulation and that in the Chinese papers, it is said that the man, Steven Goh is a married man, not a divorcee as stated in the article by Asiaone.
Will the Lian He Wan Bao and Asiaone publish an apology for what they have published about Ms Seah on their papers?
Mr Shanmugam said during a dialogue session during the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) Conference on Civil Society that the Government has faced “tremendous pressure from the public to update our harassment laws to deal with online harassment”.
“But then, you also start thinking in terms of workplace harassment, because harassment is not just online. Workplace harassment, sexual harassment, cyber-bullying, bullying of children, schools — a whole lot of issues. I think one’s got to look at all these issues together.”
Yes, I do strongly agree with what he said and add that character assassination should be considered as part of the whole deal about harassment.
The government should walk the talk and start off by dealing with the state controlled media on its gutter journalism before even taking the high moral grounds of tackling cyber-bullying.