Letter: To the Editor of The New Paper, Singapore

To the Editor of The New Paper,

I am writing this email to you to express my disappointment and disgust at the front page of The New Paper of 26 April 2011 (attached to this email).

The front page features an image of SDP candidate Dr Vincent Wijeysingha, while the captions say: “SDP candidate ‘outed’ in gay forum video: Is S’pore ready for Gay MP?”

I understand that this headline was sparked by the press statement released by PAP candidate and Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan and the rest of his Holland-Bukit Timah GRC team, drawing attention to the YouTube video of a forum on gay issues held in Singapore last year, and asking the SDP to be clear about its political agenda.

The press statement from the PAP team stated, “The issue is not Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation.”

In this context, why has The New Paper then seen fit to dedicate the entire front page to Dr Wijeysingha being a potential gay MP? Even the PAP, who were the ones to bring up this whole subject of discussion, has said that it is not about whether Dr Wijeysingha is gay or not.

The New Paper’s front page is then highly misleading, and serves to skew readers’ perspectives on the issue. In fact, I feel that the front page is nothing more than an attempt to play up homophobic sentiments in Singaporean society.

This is a highly irresponsible move that has the potential to divide Singaporeans at a time when we most need to come together to determine the future of the country for the next 5 years, and undermines all efforts towards the inclusive society we aspire to be.

The article in The New Paper also contains a poll of 137 Singaporeans on the issue of lowering the age of consent in Singapore.

I understand that this is in response to the PAP’s statement that says that “[t]he discussion at the forum also touched on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age”.

However, if you watch the YouTube video in question, it did NOT actually contain a discussion of this issue.

At no point in time did Dr Wijeysingha, or any other participant in the forum, actually put forth any wish for the age of consent to be lowered, or discussed the possibility.

For the PAP statement to have described the forum thusly was misleading and even dishonest, a blatant fear-mongering attempt to inaccurately conflate homosexual activities with paedophilia.

The New Paper did not need to compound and validate this dishonesty by means of a poll.

It does not matter that The New Paper is not a broadsheet like The Straits Times. Tabloid journalism should not be equivalent to gutter journalism.

As the second most-read English newspaper in Singapore, The New Paper is able to reach into the collective consciousness of the Singaporean public.

There is thus a crucial need for standards of journalistic integrity to be upheld, especially during the elections period where the decision of voters will directly impact the future of the nation. This is more important than sensationalising issues to the extent of misleading readers in an effort to capitalise on an already distasteful episode.

I hope that The New Paper will apologise for its irresponsible coverage, and refrain from gutter journalism in the future.

Sincerely
Kirsten Han