“If not for social media, especially TOC (The Online Citizen), the case would have died down a long time ago.”, said Mr Lim, father of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim in a thank-you dinner for the TOC editor.
On 26 January, fourteen-year-old Benjamin Lim Jun Hui was found dead at the base of a HDB flat where he lived. Prior to that, five plainclothes police officers showed up at Benjamin’s school on Tuesday morning and took him away for questioning for allegedly outraging the modesty of an 11-year-old girl. Benjamin’s mother was denied access to him for the whole duration of the police interview. (read more)
Media blackout from MSM
Over the past month, a media blackout has been imposed on Benjamin’s story by either mainstream media (MSM) itself or the government. Apart from reiterating what authorities had to say about the case, few media outlets have reported what the family has experienced and even worse so, some have started to whitewash the incident as something unfortunate but legal and justified.
From the family’s point of view, the MSM had reported wrongly on several details of the case and choose to either selectively quoting the father’s words for their reports or putting words in his mouth.
In Mr Lim’s interview over what the family feels after a month since the death of Benjamin, he expressed his thanks to social media for keeping Benjamin’s story alive and keeping the focus of the story on how the authorities handled his son.
Mr Lim truthfully admitted that he had not heard of TOC until it wrote the story for the family and expressed his thanks on behalf of the family, for its initiative to cover the family’s side of the story which gave “maximum attention” to Benjamin’s case so as not to let it be sweep under the carpet. “Without it, justice will never be served,” said Mr Lim
He too expressed his shock on the reality of the media scene in Singapore, saying that he would not have known the ugly side about Singapore’s MSM if not for this unfortunate event.
Outpour of support via open letter
A few days after the incident, Mr Lim decided to pen an open letter in response to speculation of the public due to false reporting by the MSM and trolls in the online forum who were trying to divert attention by speculating that Benjamin was guilty of molestation.
Along with the open letter, the family also created an email address for members of the public to send their letters. The email was hacked into, just a day after it was created, with no explanation from Yahoo. The family was later advised to replace the email with a Gmail account.
Mr Lim thanked TOC for publishing the full unedited version of his letter, ensuring that people read exactly what the family wanted them to know about Benjamin’s case.
According to the emails received by Mr Lim, the open letter convinced many – those whom did not believe TOC’s report nor thought of it as a trustworthy source of information – about the high-handedness of the authorities in dealing with a 14-year-old student.
Mr Lim shared that the family has received well over 1000 emails to show support or to send their condolences. Some were letters to share the grief of the family, some were letters saying that they would support the family in seeking justice and a few nasty letters asking why the family is making their story open to the public and going through to a media outlet like TOC.
There were even emails from Benjamin’s friend who written in to share their memories of him with the family. In one such email, the family was told that Benjamin is the pillar of strength for the National Police Cadet Corp (NPCC) in the school he studied in. The email wrote, “Benjamin was the pillar of strength in his school’s NPCC unit, and he was the person to whom everyone looked up when there was any problem that needed to be resolved”. This comes as a surprise to the family because Benjamin is an introvert at home, compared to his two elder siblings who are more outspoken in mannerism.
Mr Lim says that such information is a form of consolation for the family. “The emails gives us enlightenment, reflection about him (Benjamin) and encouragement. Allowing to know more about my son, than what would I have known myself.”
The family still welcome letters to be sent to them, especially about Benjamin’s life, regardless if it is something positive or negative. “It is good to write to us especially if they knew Benjamin personally”, “Let me know, even if it is negative about my son.” said Mr Lim.
Parliament to talk about “speculations from social media”
The Singapore parliament will convene this afternoon to talk about various issues, and one of which will be on the issues surrounding the death of Benjamin. (read more) Two ministers will also speak at the parliament session to address from the ministerial point of view.
There is no mention about the “selective” reporting by MSM by the MPs in their questions that is to be answered by the Minister of Education and Minister of Home Affairs. Instead, some MPs such as Mr Christopher de Souza and Mr Desmond Choo have sought to blame speculations of the case on social media that have kept the story alive for the family.