From reporting a false story in 2012, to its xenophobic reports in 2013, the Straits Times’ portal – STOMP – now looks to cast aspersions on our NSmen with an inaccurate and unfair report.
On 24 March, STOMP published a submission by a “stomper” accusing an NSman of not giving up his seat to an elderly woman.
The report, published in its column titled “Hey Goondus”, was headlined: “Elderly woman stands right in front of him on MRT, but NSman simply acts blur”.
Accompanied with a photo presumably taken by the unnamed “stomper”, the post quoted the “stomper” as having said:
"I saw this NSman sitting on the train reading his book, even though there was an elderly woman standing in front of him.
"It may not be a reserved seat, but that doesn't mean that we do not have to give up our seats to the elderly.
"He was just acting blur."
This was the main photo accompanying the report:
From the main photo, it would indeed appear that the NSman (and the others seated beside him, in fact) was inconsiderate not to give up his seat to the woman.
However, on closer look, the “Reserved” seat for the elderly and needy, which was just two seats away from the NSman, was empty. The elderly lady could have taken that seat. In fact, it is reserved for commuters like her.
STOMP did not report this and had apparently edited its headline photo to cut out the empty seat.
You can, however, see the full unedited photo in its photo gallery.
Why would the Straits Times’ portal purposely give the public the wrong impression that there were no seats available for the elderly woman, and made it seem like the NSman is inconsiderate?
This is not the first time that the Straits Times’ portal has misreported or outright fabricated reports about a story by giving it a sensational spin to draw in eyeballs.
In June 2012, it created and published a story accompanied with a photograph of an MRT train moving with one set of its doors open.
Investigations by the SMRT found that the photo was posted by a “stomper” named “wasabi”. It was later revealed that this “wasabi” was actually STOMP’s Content Producer, Samantha Francis.
The photo was established to have been photoshopped, that is, a fake.
Ms Francis was subsequently sacked from her job for fabricating the story.
The Straits Times’ editor, Warren Fernandez; its editor-in-chief of SPH's English and Malay Newspapers Division, Patrick Daniel; and STOMP Editor, Azhar Kasman, all issued apologies and pledged that the portal would do better.
Warren Fernandez, editor of the Straits Times, said then:
“The credibility of our content is critical to our readers, and all of us in the newsroom. Upholding this is a duty of each and every member of the team. We will have to work to improve our print and online processes, to do right by our readers.”
STOMP’s editor, Azhar Kasman, said then:
"I deeply regret that one of our staff breached professional ethics and posted a fabricated report. I would like to assure the public and all STOMP readers that the website does not tolerate such unethical behaviour. We will also be reviewing our operating procedures and will do everything we can to prevent such a lapse from recurring.”
However, the Straits Times itself was found to have breached the law on two separate occasions in the past year.
In January 2013, it was given a “stern warning” by the police for conducting an illegal by-election poll during the Punggol East by-election.
Last month, February 2014, the paper was castigated in court by former judge and chairman of the Committee of Inquiry into the Little India riot, Pannir Selvam, for “plain contempt of court.” The paper had published, on its front page and an inside page, an interview with the bus driver who had run over an Indian national and killing him, leading to the first riot in Singapore for more than 40 years.
The Straits Times’ report was published while the COI was ongoing.
No action was taken against the paper by the police or the Attorney General’s Office to date.
STOMP has also been observed to put out many anti-foreigner and xenophobic postings about foreigners in Singapore.
You can read about it here: “Zero tolerance for intolerance? Try STOMP”.
In July last year, the Straits Times reported:
“Bloggers and websites have a responsibility to give accurate information, especially in times of crisis, observers said in response to Government criticism of those who spread false information during the recent haze.”
It said “many observers agreed it was right to call out... behaviour” which propagate false information.
The government itself, however, have not spoken out against the law-breaking and false-reporting behaviour of the Straits Times or its portals such as STOMP.
In fact, the Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, who has taken bloggers to task for alleged “falsehoods”, has been entirely silent on the false reports of the mainstream media.
Even in recent times, the mainstream media was publishing inaccurate and false reports on the riot in Little India.
Read it here: “Little India riot – mis-reporting, falsehoods and speculations”.