CNA reporter resigns in the wake of misinformation debacle about ministerial salaries

(Left to Right: DPM Teo Chee Hean, Bharati Jagdish, Ho Kwon Ping)

TOC received a tip that heavyweight Mediacorp reporter Bharati Jagdish has resigned over the recent misinformation debacle about a statement made by Banyan Tree Holdings founder and executive chairman, Ho Kwon Ping about ministerial salaries.

In the original interview published on ChannelNewsAsia on 30th September 2018, Mr Ho said that his salary is lower than that of ministers. The report then went on to state that Mr Ho’s salary inclusive of bonus and benefits comes up to well over S$2.5 million.

However, a few days later, after some confusion about what was actually said and addressed in the interview between the reporter and Mr Ho, CNA included a note to clarify that the report did not actually highlight Mr Ho’s total compensation during the interview at all and merely added it into the write-up post-interview. They also added a note to say that Mr Ho had clarified to TODAY that he was not corrected by the reporter during the interview and that he was referring to basic salaries, not total compensation as written by the reporter.

Unfortunately, the conversation around ministerial salaries was already in play. During his address in parliament, DPM Teo Chee Hean relied on that inaccurate (before the clarification) report about what Mr Ho has said and dismissed his statement as a misrepresentation that could lead to widespread representation.

While addressing questions, Mr Teo said “The subject of ministerial salaries is a difficult one to talk about, an emotional one. There are misconceptions, sometimes deliberately propagated. It is easily politicised. Even knowledgeable, well-meaning people who have a deep interest in politics can be susceptible to this.”

Those were some strong statement by Mr Teo about Mr Ho’s alleged ‘misrepresentations’.

Mr Teo said,

I read Mr Ho Kwon Ping’s extensive interview with CNA, which was published yesterday.

Among other things, he suggested pegging Ministerial salaries to the median salary of Singaporeans. He also suggested an independent Commission to decide the actual quantum. And Mr Louis Ng, in an earlier similar interview, also suggested that there should be public consultations…

…But even Mr Ho, who is well-informed and has a deep interest in politics, has some serious misconceptions. He claimed, for example, that his salary is lower than the Ministers.

Sir, fortunately, the interviewer had checked, done the homework, and pointed out to Mr Ho that his salary, including benefits and bonus – I would not mention the figure, but it is significantly higher than that of Ministers and certainly not lower than Minister’s salaries.

Sir, otherwise the misrepresentation could have been carried widely and spread more disinformation.

Unfortunately for him, Mr Teo was a victim of misinformation as well as he seems to have relied solely on CNA’s poorly worded original write that that caused the confusion in the first place. The article was only edited and updated by CNA on 6th October, five days after Mr Teo’s address to parliament.

(Left: Amended article, Right: Original before edit)

Mr Teo had also clearly not read Mr Ho’s clarification to TODAY – published on the same day that Mr Teo spoke in parliament – about what he actually meant to say.

This led to Mr Teo wrongly claiming that Mr Ho, though well-informed, had ‘serious misconceptions’ about ministerial salaries which spread as misinformation. While addressing CNA’s report, Mr Teo had also lauded the reporter, Ms Bharati, for doing her homework, unlike Mr Ho.

Unwittingly, Mr Teo propagated a misrepresentation as well, this one about Mr Ho and Ms Bharati.

Unfortunately, the reporter who wrote the CNA article in question was forced to resign for ‘making a fabrication’ in her article, according to a source. Ms Bharati had worded the write up in a way that implied she had done her homework before conducting the interview with Mr Ho and cross-examined him on the spot when he made that comment about how his salary was lower than that of ministers,  when in fact she did no such thing.

TOC reached out to CNA for their comment about Ms Bharati’s resignation. They merely stated that she was not forced to resign, implying that she left by her own decision.

We have also reached out to Ms Bharati for comments, however, she has not replied by the time this article was published.

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