SINGAPORE’S Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and local independent news portal The Online Citizen (TOC) are locked in a war of words over the controversial case involving Benjamin Lim.
In January, 14-year-old Benjamin had been questioned by police over allegations of molesting a girl, and subsequently jumped to his death in an apparent suicide from his bedroom window just hours later.
Though he was a minor, he had been interrogated on his own, and was not allowed to see his mother.
The case had brought on a barrage of criticisms from the public on how police had handled the incident, with many calling on the government to provide answers.
According to Shanmugam, TOC’s coverage of the incident, comprising of more than 20 articles, included “falsehoods” that either alleged or implied that school officials did not provide adequate care and support for Benjamin, that police investigations had been heavy-handed and intimidating, and that Benjamin was made to confess to a crime he did not commit.
Shanmugam passed out copies of a 20-page document at Parliament during a public discussion of the issue, which summarized the “unfounded implications” he had taken issue with.
In his speech, he had also accused TOC of carrying out “a planned, orchestrated campaign” using the “falsehoods”.
Responding to Shanmugam’s assertions, TOC posted an editorial on their site today, rebutting several of the minister’s points.
Among the points covered were what the police had been wearing when they picked up Benjamin from school to be questioned, whether his family had requested privacy, and allegations that TOC was carrying out an “orchestrated campaign”.
According to TOC, the majority of its articles about the case had been letters and opinion pieces contributed by the public, as “Benjamin’s story triggered a strong reaction among our readers.”
TOC went on to say that it prided itself on being an open platform which allowed people to raise questions regarding the incident, and that the public’s reaction had been “spontaneous” rather than “orchestrated”.
“Had the police, Home Affairs or Law Ministries, or anyone from the government written to TOC or responded to our requests for comment, we would have been happy to present their views too.”
— The Online Citizen
TOC also pointed out that “inaccuracies” were not the same as “falsehoods”, saying it had done its best with the information on hand, which was why it rejected Shanmugam’s claim that it had deliberately attempted to mislead.
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