I was angry yesterday. Today I am just sad. I had banked on The Straits Times correcting its inaccurate statement on the closure of Breakfast Network.
It had said in yesterday’s edition that the Media Development Authority ordered the site and its Facebook page closed after my crew and I “refused’’ to register. This was inserted as background in an article on the MDA telling news site Mothership to register: In the same month, Breakfast Network was ordered to close down its website and Facebook page after it refused to register
The fact is, the MDA never ordered us to do so. We opted to do so because we knew we couldn’t meet the registration requirements. We didn’t wait for any order.
TODAY newspaper got it right in its article: Last year, two websites with a socio-political bent were asked to register, sparking an outcry from some who were concerned that would dampen online debate. The Independent complied with the request, while the Breakfast Network opted to shut down, citing the onerous requirements for registration.
I said on my FB wall yesterday morning that ST had got it wrong and that I would like a correction and an apology. No one contacted me. There is no apology.
I suppose some people might say that the ST was not wrong in saying we were ordered to shut down because it’s a fait accompli. Well, I disagree. The implication of ST’s phrase is that we were recalcitrants who had to be told to shut down. Not so. We volunteered. We made that plain, on the record. MDA didn’t need to exercise its regulatory powers; we saved MDA from looking like a bully. We didn’t want a prolonged battle.
As for the Breakfast Network Facebook Page, it’s still alive. You can go check it out.
You see, what MDA was concerned about in this whole business of registration of sites which discuss local politics and religion, was that a company had been set up to run the site as a business and therefore supposedly more susceptible to the receipt of undesirable foreign funding.
I shut the company down.
I can think of a few reasons/excuses ST declined/refused to run a What It Should Have Been, never mind that one of its cherished mantras is “accuracy, accuracy, accuracy’’.
- She didn’t come to us officially, but chose to make a statement on her Facebook wall. So no formal complaint, no correction.
- MDA didn’t say anything (this is an assumption on my part) and MDA is far bigger than Bertha. So if MDA is okay by it, no correction.
- It’s regulatory. So whether Breakfast Network volunteered or not, it was still under orders to close if it doesn’t comply. So no correction.
- MDA wanted to know who was behind the FB page, indicating that it should be closed down if run by the people behind the company. Never mind that it’s still alive. It is technically accurate. So no correction.
- What’s on social media is crap anyway, so why even bother to check with her or anyone else? No correction.
- When is that crazy woman going to stop this? This has-been, washed-up, disgruntled, ungrateful ex-journalist whom we’ve fed for 26 years….Not enough that she trashes our stories almost every day? Who does she think she is? Let her stew. Make her beg. So no correction.
I suppose there will be some arguments about a “clarification’’, rather than a correction which would have saved ST from making an apology. But since no one contacted me – whether on FB, through email, by SMS, phone call or What’s App – the instruction was probably “Don’t’’. I don’t know if it corrected its “files’’ – no one told me.
It’s painful to know that not a single ST journalist bothered to reach me, not even to find out “what’s happening’’. No one is recorded as “liking’’ the FB post although there are plenty of ex-journalists who did so (all of them are disgruntled?) So many on my FB wall, and a studious silence from all. It makes me wonder ….
I write the things I write because, among other things, I believe strongly in upholding professional standards of journalism. I know how hard it is for journalists and editors to navigate the politics of the country and still do a professional job of reporting. I know how hard it is to fend off commercial interests which want to influence editorial work. I know how hard it is to hold the line. But as I keep telling journalists and anyone who is interested, 99 per cent of the time, you can still do an excellent job of doing your profession proud every day.
Today is not that day.
Anyway, this is my formal letter to The Straits Times because I gather it will stand behind a “write in officially if you want to complain’’ SOP:
The Straits Times
I am writing in to point out an inaccuracy in your article yesterday, News site told to register. In it, it was reported: In the same month, Breakfast Network was ordered to close down its website and Facebook page after it refused to register.
I wish to point out that Breakfast Network opted to close down its site because it was unable to cope with the regulatory requirements. Its Facebook page is still operational.
Please publish a correction.