In Jan this year when the coronavirus outbreak started to unfold, a member of the public Dr Kho Kwang Po wrote to ST Forum wanting to educate the public on the importance of wearing masks.
However, at the time, the government was of the opinion that people should only wear masks if they are ill. They should not be wearing any masks if they are well.
Dr Kho’s letter was published under ‘Forum: Excerpts from readers’ letters‘ in a short paragraph on 24 Jan:
WEAR MASKS TO FIGHT VIRUS
Now that the potentially fatal Wuhan virus is spreading, it is a good time to educate the public to wear a mask when they have a cough to prevent the spread of viruses.
This should be strictly enforced on all forms of transport, especially airlines.
The virus is spread by droplets, so masks will reduce its transmission.
Healthcare personnel who are constantly exposed to risks should definitely do this.
Kho Kwang Po (Dr)
Reading the ST Forum letter from Dr Kho would have given the impression to readers that he supported the government’s call to wear masks only when one is ill, and if one is well, he should not be wearing any masks.
Dr Kho: ST edited my letter to make it look like I supported the ‘no mask if not sick’ advice
Today (10 May), Dr Kho broke his silence revealing on his Facebook page for the first time that actually Straits Times edited out a crucial sentence which altered the main point of his letter.
As far back as Jan, Dr Kho was actually advocating that people should wear masks regardless if one is ill or not.
“Straits Times forum has the bad habit of editing letters to reflect or confirm their own or govt’s stance on various issues… like mask usage,” Dr Kho lamented.
“They edited my letter to make it look like I supported the ‘no mask if not sick’ advice of the govt. This is completely deplorable and irresponsible.”
Dr Kho then went on to say that Straits Times actually deleted the following important sentence from his letter:
“Those who do not wish to be infected should don N95 masks especially in crowded confined areas”
“(This) was deleted to make it appear I agreed with the govt’s disastrous no mask advice supported by Dr Leong Hoe Nam, Prof Dale Fisher and MOH,” Dr Kho added.
Another Facebook user replied to Dr Kho, “Why bother to write. I have given up long ago. No longer interested in anything here. Waiting to live out my life elsewhere.”
ST Editors appointed by government
In 2011, notes written by US Embassy staff in Singapore were leaked online via Wikileak. In one of the documents, it recorded conversations between then ST US Bureau Chief Chua Chin Hon with the US Embassy staff.
Chua lamented that the ST editors have all been groomed as pro-government supporters and are careful to ensure that reporting of local events adheres closely to the official line. He said that none of them has the courage to publish any stories critical of the government.
Chua also revealed that the Singapore government has an established track record of using the press, the ST in particular, to shape public opinion. He noted how the government intends to push a certain policy is often foreshadowed by extensive media coverage (published before the official policy announcements).
As an example, he pointed to the government’s decision to assist retirees who lost investments in “mini-bonds” following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. That official decision to help the retirees was announced after a spate of media coverage casting the retirees’ plight in sympathetic terms, before the government came to the “rescue”.
Given Chua’s testimony, it’s not difficult to understand why Straits Times would want to edit a reader’s letter in support of government’s call not to wear masks if one is well, even though that was not the intention of the reader.