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State Media Organ TODAY Admits Fake News in article re JBJ and Reform Party

Our letter to the Editor of TODAY Online yesterday received a response. To remind readers my letter referred to an article published in TODAY dated 24 May 2020 entitled “Members who resigned, were expelled ‘no big deal’ for Progress Singapore Party: Tan Cheng Bock”.

TODAY said in the body of its article ;

Back in 2011, the party founded by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam saw a mass resignation of nine members

Like most state media articles about the Opposition, this and the story about members leaving Tan Cheng Bock’s party was just part of the PAP’s strategy of portraying the Opposition as a hopelessly fractious bunch, always squabbling both internally and externally. In doing so it gives credence to a group of serial professional party hoppers, some of whom, like Hazel Poa, feature in both events, even though they are nine years apart .

To say that the Reform Party was founded by me is also clearly untrue. By publishing this fake news the state media was just trying to write JBJ out of history, which has been the PAP’s aim since he died in 2008, and suggest that the Reform Party is a personal vehicle.

The Chair and I wrote to Today and received a reply. They have changed the word “founded” to “headed“.

They also published a correction notice:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story by CNA said that “in 2011, the party founded by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam saw a mass :”. This is incorrect. It should have been the party “headed” by Mr Kenneth Jeyaretnam. We apologise for the error.

While I am one of the strongest opponents of the Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which I view as an attempt by the Government to stifle criticism and prevent the expression of opposing views, the fact that TODAY backed down after I threatened to ask the Minister to issue a Correction Notice, shows that it can and should be made to work both ways. We need to prevent Ministers like Josephine Teo talking cock because they feel secure that Singaporeans will be intimidated by the POFMA legislation into not challenging them.

I have personal experience of the difficulty of getting the state media to correct fake news. In the run-up to the 2011 election Tessa Wong, then a journalist with the Straits Times but who has now joined the BBC, to its detriment. She ran a story about Alec Tok, a member who left to join SDP because they promised him an SMC, claiming that he left because I was forcing him to retrospectively conform to a set of Central Executive Committee (CEC) protocols he had never seen. When I proved to Tessa that Alec Tok had in fact helped to draft the CEC protocols, she just amended the original article but left two versions on the internet. She also said that the Straits Times would not put any notice up apologising and saying they had amended the article. With POFMA it is at least theoretically possible to use the Government’s own weapon of repression against them, hopefully hoisting them with their own petard, so to speak.

Lee Hsien Loong and his minions want to ensure that young Singaporeans and new citizens are kept unaware of JBJ’s special place in Singapore’s history and his breaking of the PAP’s monopoly back in 1981.That rewriting of history began with LHL’s condolence letter to me and my brother, where he accused my father of having “sought by all means to demolish the PAP and our system of government.” Ironically POFMA has become a weapon to prevent this.

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