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Shame on “The Real Singapore” for publishing compromising photos of minors

Now here’s the picture “The Real Singapore” painted:

A PE teacher who’s too free or perhaps is having a break; he carries a handphone around and is able to snap close shots of male students kissing each other without them noticing. Then, this teacher wrote in to the TRS and sends in his private photo taken of the two boys kissing each other.

Except that, the story painted by TRS is an almost obvious giveaway that it is anything but “real”.

First of all, this teacher who revealed that he is from the “same school” knows that he might lose his job if his identity is published by the TRS. Yet he flaunts his identity as if he is not afraid to be found out who he is. He revealed he is from the PE department, a redundant info which he strangely provides, as it only narrows the search of who he is. There are not many PE teachers in a school. Then, he revealed he has a religious background. This further narrows the search to probably just a few teachers.

And if the school will do a further investigation (which they will probably have to), they would easily identify the students, why and where has the activity taken place etc. From there, it will be even easier to trace the PE teacher, by looking at their schedules. Not every PE teacher would be so free to roam around with a handphone taking photos at a particular time at a particular vicinity in school.

But all this hassle is needless if you would just examine the photo. It is such a close up shot that it would be practically impossible for a teacher to have crept next up next to them or to have taken the shot from a short distance away without any students noticing. This is the biggest obvious giveaway that the testimony of the PE teacher is a completely fabricated one. And if the shot was taken by a student and given to the teacher, it would have been pretty easy to find out who the teacher is as well.

There are other inconsistencies that could hardly be matched with reality too. For example, it would have been more effective for the PE teacher to approach the school principal or MOE if his intention is truly to stop other teachers from promoting homosexuality. Why should he cross his professional line of duty by consulting, of all people, a public news platform that supports the promotion of homosexuality itself?

All these inconsistencies didn’t matter to TRS.

It didn’t matter even though the article is almost obviously fabricated. It is hard to imagine with TRS’ experience as an aggregating news site that they were unable to discern such obvious inconsistencies.

It didn’t matter even though TRS claims to be representing a “REAL” Singapore, and has a tag line, “Voices of Average Singaporeans”. They portray a mission that aims to present truthful pictures of Singaporeans, yet seems really more interested in sensationalizing non-credible news.

It didn’t matter that the two boys portrayed kissing each other in the photo are minors below the age of 16, maybe even 14. Heck, they look 11 even. It didn’t matter to TRS how these young minors would feel, if they discover that their photo has been published for the whole world to see online. It didn’t matter to TRS that these boys might be shamed, wronged, or ridiculed by peers. It didn’t matter that the boys’ parents or relatives might misunderstand them and be angry or upset. It didn’t matter that these boys might feel they are to be blamed for everyone’s anger and madness. It didn’t matter that this act of TRS might create traumas out of these two young children.

Worst, since whatever appears online can never be made private again, the reminder of this trauma lurks on online forever, for the rest of their lives.

This is not funny. It is a grave injustice done to the two boys.

I wonder how these two boys are right now. I wonder how their parents are. I hope they are fine. But I know if I am in their shoes, or if it is my own boy in the picture, I would be really hurt, upset and angry. I would want to seek recourse. I would want some justice. I would at least want to call out TRS for who they are.

Irresponsible.

Irresponsibility is often a common trait of socio-political websites like TRS. Recently, a few other blogs and personalities have garnered attention for getting into trouble with the law because of the same problem – they have published baseless accusations against the court and against the government. Roy Ngerng has just been sued by PM Lee while Alex Au is facing possible action from the AGC regarding contempt of court. I have read both Alex and Roy’s articles before and have to say that I can totally understand why actions have been taken against them. Over the years, I have also observed the trend of how most socio-political websites are anti-establishment and they are also somehow, motivated to push for pink dot and the same-sex marriage movement. Singapore’s alternative news and mainstream online voices, rather than providing a spectrum of fair diverse views, seem overwhelmingly biased and one-sided on debatable issues. Many a times, I feel that these online voices hardly represent my views and worse, they are hardly responsible voices that I can trust.

Bullies.

But this time, TRS crossed the line too far when they put the lives of two young boys at stake. This case clearly constitutes cyber bullying. Innocent photo of minors have been misused, perhaps even maliciously. The publication of the photo seemed justified by TRS because of a suspiciously written letter. You cannot rule out foul play or that the letter might have been deliberately arranged to manipulate the public. I strongly support calls for an investigation into the identity of this writer and what has transpired between him and TRS, in the interest of justice for the students and for the safeguarding of public. The authorities should ascertain the real motives behind the letter, and whether there has been collaboration with sources that wanted to use this to push their agenda to the Singapore public.

Hence, I would like to ask of the MDA and the Law ministry:

Would MDA intervene in this case where the photo and content of the TRS’s article is deemed highly inappropriate, possibly fraudulent, and definitely detrimental to the two boys in the photo? What would MDA do to help safeguard society from future exploitation by such websites? Can MDA stop the spread of the photo by imposing a fine or punishment?

We have read how the AGC has acted against bloggers who showed contempt of court with their online writings, but would the AGC be able to act for society or for individuals who have been harmed online? Would AGC pursue this with TRS – being a case where minors’ rights have been unfairly abused by a public website? Are current laws adequate to protect society from cyber bullying issues, e.g. what about cases where people post the identity and addresses of others with a malicious intent? Can the public go to the police for this? What is the recourse then for people who have been cyber bullied? What should they do?

The hassle caused to society; the distress and shock caused to parents; the controversy stirred even among children; the dissent at conservative groups because the writer of the letter is deemed religious; the time and economic resources wasted by the education ministry to deal with this likely fraudulent report; and most of all, the damage and harm, known and unknown, done to these two young boys and their family etc, cannot be accepted or tolerated by society. Such cyber bullying, especially by bloggers and websites with public influence, if allowed and unregulated, would simply cause more destruction and chaos to society. We already have enough fragmentation and stress to manage, and we do not need more of it.

I support PM Lee’s action to take Roy Ngerng to task. I support AGC’s actions against Alex Au as well. All irresponsible reporting, malicious writing must stop. It is everyone’s right not to be abused. Unfortunately, not everyone in Singapore have the resources to protect themselves. It is here therefore I hope, and appeal to the government, that they will consider empowering the average Singaporean, by improving the relevancy of the law, so that ordinary and silent Singaporeans can be protected from irresponsible, malicious, fraud or manipulative reporting that harms the individual and the society as well.

With great power, comes responsibility. The converse is also true. Only when people learn to be responsible, can we use our power rightly. The internet will never have the ability to self-regulate, nor will it be good for fair discussions and knowledge to take shape, without some form of order to lift it out from its current chaos and climate of irresponsible reporting.

It’s a good thing to recognize this and get started now.

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