It is not often that I think ST has any articles that are praiseworthy. In fact, more often than not, I feel that ST is, at best, full of drivel, and, at worst, rumourmongering. ST’s articles often seem to be serving the interests of certain established powers (e.g. taxi companies) rather than that of the majority of Singaporeans.
But. Once in a blue moon, ST actually has gems. The most recent example is an article by ST’s assistant political editor Rachel Chang titled, “More questions than answers in Hepatitis C timeline?”
I’m not sure if anyone in ST/SPH read my blog. But I have written two posts that ask the same questions that Rachel did in her article, one pointing out that by early September, there was already sufficient information to confirm that the cases were related and another asking why there was such a long delay before the news was announced.
So I am naturally pleasantly surprised to see that ST actually dared to publish an article that asked similar questions. But it seems that the article has hit a sore point with the powers that be. MOH has issued a very terse response. MOH response accuses Ms Chang of baselessly suggesting that MOH and SGH staff for deliberately delaying disclosure of information for political reasons. The thing is… Ms Chang did not make any such suggestions. All she did was point out that that is what some people believe. She then ended off exhorting that the report of the independent review committee MUST lay to rest any suspicion that the delay in releasing information was politically motivated.
Why then did MOH deem it necessary to issue such a terse reply? Could it be because MOH knows that they have yet to give a credible reason to explain the delay? Yes, MOH, in their response to Ms Chang’s article, insists that they have nothing to hide and have made public the timeline. Yet, and this is the crux of Ms Chang’s article, the timeline that is published does not explain why there is a delay. It only shows that there was a delay.
I agree that we need to wait for the outcome of the independent review committee. But there are also questions of exactly how independent this committee can be. How much information would be made public? Would we, ordinary citizens, be able to see every single email, every single note of meeting, every single piece of document that is related to this case? In addition to the report of the independent review committee, can we have a process similar to the US Senates congressional hearings, where MPs, including (and perhaps especially) the opposition MPs, get to review all the evidence and then grill MOH and SGH staff, as well as the Minister? And have this entire “hearing” process filmed down and open to public review and scrutiny.
If MOH really has nothing to hide, then I think that we should really have our equivalent of a congressional hearing. That would be the best well to put to rest any suspicion that the delay in information release was politically motivated. But… I highly doubt we will have that.
At best, we will have the occasional hard-hitting article in ST. Ironically, MOH deemed it necessary to send a strong signal to force ST into silence. Its response ends with “Straits Times journalism cannot consist of repeating gossip while claiming to air opinions. Singaporeans expect higher standards of journalism from our newspapers, especially a paper of record.” It seems that the government is perfectly alright with ST repeating gossips if the gossips are detrimental to the opposition, but it is will not tolerate ST asking hard questions of the government.
But the MOH press secretary is definitely right. Singaporeans expect, and deserve, higher standards of journalism. And that means having journalists like Rachel Chang who wouldn’t just parrot the official government position and dare to ask the government difficult questions. Let’s hope we can have more such articles in ST!