Following TOC’s interview with a man who was allegedly abused by police officers at Cantonment Police Station in February last year despite passing his breathalyser test, Singapore Police Force (SPF) issued a statement on the issue on 29 June which was then reported word-for-word by local media outlets.
The man, See Kian Beng, was publicly named by the police in its Facebook post despite TOC’s attempt to preserve his anonymity in our previous report and video interview.
Mr See was encouraged by his relatives to approach TOC regarding what had happened to him following his unsuccessful attempts to seek an explanation from the police on the matter, and after his case was closed by the police and shunned by the mainstream media due to the sensitive nature of the matter.
Following the publication of the SPF statement on its Facebook page, Mr See issued a response to local media outlets in the early morning of 30 June.
Coconuts Singapore, however, wrote that “the police’s version of events was largely consistent with that of See’s” despite the police insisting that See had given “a misleading impression” and “had not set out the full facts”.
Online news media outlet Goody Feed, at the time of writing, appears to be the only media carrying reports on Mr See’s case to have included his response to the police.
Mr See in his response on Wednesday, which was sent out to various media outlets, said that the police did not deny most of the facts set out, but had instead attempted “to provide a justified explanation of the circumstances”.
He also said that the police have not been able to provide any documentation to prove its claim that they had arrested him at time the incident took place.
“If I had been arrested, can SPF name the police officer who arrested me and read out my rights to me? I emphasis (sic) that I was only handcuffed by the police when they wanted to push me into the padded cell,” he said.
TOC understands that in the police’s letter to Mr See dated 18 June, it did not state that he was put under arrest.
Mr See also expressed his “utmost disappointment” over the police’s move to disclose his full name in its statement on Facebook.
“Is SPF trying to intimidate me and my family members so that I will not pursue the matter any further? Does Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) still exist?” He questioned.
The newspapers the man had approached to cover his story allegedly closed his case, despite him giving them all of the necessary information and having photographs taken at his house.
We have written to Shin Min, one of the news outlets, for confirmation. However, we have not received a response on the matter.
Most of the local media’s silence on See’s response is not surprising, as he had nowhere to turn to for his report back in Feb 2020.
The apparent bias in reporting may serve as a factor in deterring ordinary citizens from speaking out on their personal experience with the authorities, as it often appears to be a case of one person’s words against the entire establishment.
Singapore was ranked 160 in the World Press Freedom ranking this year out of 180 countries surveyed — and the media’s reportage on such matters appears to reflect this ranking.