Chee Hong Tat’s wild allegations against Leon Perera on claims of partisan edits by MediaCorp

It seems that the Members of Parliament from People’s Action Party, especially the Ministers have a particular habit of attacking individuals who ask valid questions by throwing baseless allegations and insinuations upon them.

Back in Nov and Feb this year, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Minister Chan Chun Sing choose not to answer the questions of Ms Sylvia Lim on whether did Attorney General Chamber gave advice to government to name the first President for reserved election but choose to attack Ms Lim by asking if she was making allegations against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and challenged her to file a lawsuit.

Following the two’s footsteps, Mr Chee Hong Tat, the Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Communications and Information did the same to Mr Leon Perera, a non-consituency member of Parliament when he asked which entity owns the copyright to the video recordings of parliamentary proceedings; and if these video records are protected by copyright, whether the Ministry will consider removing such copyright and making all video footage of parliamentary proceedings freely available for use, contesting Mr Perera’s account of seeking MediaCorp’s assistance in correcting a clip which had been truncated.

TOC has addressed some of Mr Chee’s replies in the below video and why his replies are simply not answering the questions.

A day later, Mr Chee went on his Facebook page and alleged that Mr Perera was implying that MediaCorp had edited Parliamentary footages in a partisan manner and that he was telling untruths to score political points.

Below is Mr Chee’s Facebook post in full

On Tuesday’s Parliament Sitting (Nov 7), Mr Leon Perera alleged that Mediacorp had edited a video from the debate on the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill in Feb this year, with “certain bits removed”. He claimed that after his intervention, #MediaCorp “made a rectification and put up a different clip”.

He was clearly implying that MediaCorp had edited Parliamentary footages in a partisan manner.

This was a serious accusation. But it was false, and unfair to MediaCorp who work very hard to prepare footages after every Parliament Sitting.

I raised this with Mr Perera in Parliament on Tuesday. Confronted, he was forced to acknowledge the following facts:

(a) On 20 Feb 2017, Mr Perera emailed MediaCorp to ask why a particular video clip had been truncated.
(b) MediaCorp replied to him on the same day, explaining that a technical glitch had affected the recording, and that it had been rectified and the full clip made available online on 18 Feb – TWO days before Mr Perera’s email query.

So Mr Perera had known this for several months. Yet when I asked him, he at first repeated the false claim. He said, “as a result of that exchange I had with MediaCorp, they removed the video with the truncation and then they uploaded a new video without the truncations””.

I had to reiterate the facts and remind him what actually happened, before he grudgingly conceded the point.

It is surprising that Mr Perera remembered the original ‘editing’ and that he had asked MediaCorp, but ‘forgot’ that MediaCorp told him it was an error which had already been rectified.

It is part of debate to criticize and present different views. But it is unethical and wrong to tell untruths to score political points. This is not what Singaporeans want to see in Parliament.

In response to Mr Chee’s Facebook post, Mr Perera wrote on his own Facebook page,

“I refer to today’s Facebook post by SMS Chee Hong Tat on our exchange on Parliamentary video footage. I did not state that the footage he referred to had been edited in a partisan manner. My PQ and SQs had asked about the ownership of the Copyright to Parliamentary video footage and why Parliamentary video live feed cannot be made available as it is in many other countries.”

Just how much ground of truth does Mr Chee stand on?

Mr Perera’s emphasis on the questions asked by him, is the thing about Mr Chee’s reply in Parliament and his subsequent allegations on social media, he did not give a straight answer for the main points of Mr Perera’s supplementary question as to why Mediacorp, a private entity is given the powers to “edit” the parliamentary videos for public consumption and why live feed cannot be made available to the public.

From the above video, Mr Perera did not claim that MediaCorp edited the video due to partisan reasons but noted that there have been instances of “editing”, which actually refers to truncation.

As one can see from the replies online, many desire a live stream to the Parliament sessions which is contrary to Mr Chee’s claims of low demand. Even if it is in low demand, there is little to no barrier in terms of technical limitations and resources preventing the government from live streaming the sessions. One can also see from the CNA’s microsite that the videos are chopped up exactly to the point where questions are asked and answered, without showing who are the MPs who raised their hands and rejected by the Speaker of Parliament for follow up questions.

Refer to an example on 15 Aug 2016, where Mdm Halimah Yacob, the former Speaker of Parliament “missed” Mr Low’s raised hand and he had to walk over to the podium to ask for a division to be called for the passing of the Administration of Justice bill.

Both the Hansard and the Mediacorp video did not capture the part where Mdm Halimah looked down at her paper and just went through the motion of announcing that the bill was passed despite Mr Low raising his hand high to gain her attention. This was observed by me as I sat in the public gallery. If the parliament video was shown in full length on Mediacorp’s website, this incident would have been captured and observed by viewers online.

Also, is it not true that Mr Chee’s contestation of Mr Perera’s account is by facts from MediaCorp? Mr Chee said that Mr Perera’s email was dated on 20 Feb this year and MediaCorp in their reply said that they had already fixed the problem on the 18 Feb. Now if the technical glitch is said to be of a system error, why would they be aware of the glitch if not for Mr Perera’s highlight? The video would have been up for a few weeks, why would MediaCorp suddenly go and correct the video on 18 Feb? Not logical isn’t it? If Mr Chee has put on his thinking cap, he would think twice about using this point to hit on a MP who was just trying to raise an issue of public interest.

As seen in the email below, Ministry of Communications and Information is heavily dependent on MediaCorp’s technical know-how and service, is there an independent audit on whether are they performing to standards and if there have been edits that are non-desirable? I leave that question to be answered by the government and the public.

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November 2017