To what extent will the government consider removal of video and cuts as being “edited”?

As all might be aware, Non-constituency Member of Parliament, Leon Perera was made to apologise for a statement he made about the Mediacorp editing videos from the Parliament sessions under the request of Leader of the House, Grace Fu.

Instead of addressing the point that the clip which Mr Perera noted, indeed, had parts of it missing before Mediacorp rectified the technical glitch, the establishment went after the sequence of events. Ms Fu demanded Mr Perera to make an apology in Parliament which he did.

In his personal statement made in parliament, Mr Perera said,

However, I did not deliberately misrepresent the facts of that incident to this House. I did not plan to raise this during the supplementary questions. I did so off the cuff and only in response to a request to enumerate any incidence of editing that I knew of.”…”As it turned out, my memory of the incident was inaccurate,”

“I did acknowledge my memory might well be imperfect as I prefaced it with the quote ‘if my memory serves me well’. I stated explicitly, twice on that day, that the incident had been resolved amicably and did not accuse Mediacorp of partisan editing, which makes the matter of when the clip was corrected immaterial.”

“I’d also like to reiterate that the main thrust of my (questions) had been the nature and ownership of parliamentary video footage, which was clarified, and whether and how videos are edited, and why livestreaming of Parliament is not provided,” he said.

A rewind back to the parliament session where Senior Minister of State for Ministry of Communication and Information, Chee Hong Tat in the Parliamentary session, November last year defended the current practice of letting Mediacorp manage the Parliamentary videos.

He said, “Mr Perera also mentioned that the footages have been, I think he used the word “edited”, and he mentioned that not everything is shown. I wish to clarify that is not true. I have also explained this during the Committee of Supply that the footages are all put up. They are edited to show, to arrange and to sort them out based on the speakers and the reply given. If Mr Perera feels that there are certain examples that have been left out, maybe the Member can give me some specific examples, and we will certainly look into those.”

He then further said, “Mr Speaker, I want to reiterate the point that what I said by “editing”, I think my definition of editing may be different from what Mr Perera was alluding to. When I said “editing”, what I meant was Channel NewsAsia would take the footages, and they will sort them out based on the person who asked the question, the person who answered, so as to make it more convenient for viewers to search and to access these footages. The editing that is done is not to remove certain parts of what was said. It is shown as per what was said in Parliament and what is reflected in Hansard, on the microsite and on the video footages of Facebook page, so on and so forth.”

So Mr Chee’s stance is that the editing that is done by Mediacorp is not to remove certain parts of what was said, but to make it convenient for viewers to search and access. While it may be true that parts within a speech are not being omitted, but one can just use an example with the recent videos uploaded by Mediacorp onto its Channel News Asia microsite that it may not be entirely the case.

One can refer to the video of the exchange between the Workers’ MP and Indranee Rajah on the Keppel O&M bribery scandal and see that there are missing parts to the video, where Deputy Speaker Charles Chong cut short the debate by stating that there can only be two more questions asked when there are many more MPs wanting to file questions on this contentious topic.

While the missing part where Deputy Speaker spoke is short, but it is significant as it informs the public that the Members of Parliament are prevented from asking any further questions by the Speaker.

This is similar to the Parliamentary debate for the Administration of Justice (Protection) bill where former Speaker of Parliament, Mdm Halimah Yacob who is Singapore’s current president, seemingly pushed through with the passing of the controversial bill.

Despite Mr Low Thia Khiang having raised his hands to seek the attention of the Speaker, Mdm Halimah said, “The Ayes have it, the Ayes have it”

Mr Low had to walk all the way over to the podium to make his intention to call for a division clear through the microphone as Mdm Halimah hesitated to respond to him and tried to dissuade him from calling for a division.

If there had been livestreaming of the parliamentary session and video of the session public is made in full without edits, this would have been noticed by the public. But as it is, only those who are there in the public gallery will have knowledge of the incident. And interestingly, this was not recorded in Hansard.

Although the government has uploaded this particular exchange in full on its YouTube channel, but many more videos are not and only available on Mediacorp’s microsite for a period of six months. They are subjected to the same kind of edits and trancation.

As the parliament is conducted using public money, the public deserves to know and have access to full clips of the parliamentary sessions and not clips that are cut to size by a private entity.

If you are interested, you can support us in our petition for livestreaming and full documentation of Parliamentary videos. “Signature drive for a public petition for the government to provide full and live telecast of Parliament