The Online Citizen denies ‘twisting’ police harassment story, wants correction order revoked

Screengrabs from the video posted May 18. Photo: @Nichology/Instagram
Screengrabs from the video posted May 18. Photo: @Nichology/Instagram

A political news site struck back yesterday at Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam, denying that its reporting on alleged police harassment of an elderly woman was distorted.

The Online Citizen, or TOC, rejected Shanmugam’s accusations that it fabricated its narrative and twisted facts involving a police encounter earlier this month with an unmasked 85-year-old woman believed to suffer from dementia. The site said it had no malice toward the police force and filed an appeal for the minister to retract a correction order issued over its report that officers misrepresented the encounter.

“Mr K Shanmugam, has publicly accused TOC of twisting the facts, taking advantage of an elderly dementia patient to spin a story, and to cynically attack and erode public trust in the police. These allegations are deeply regrettable, and patently incorrect,” TOC wrote yesterday of its recorded interview with the woman in which she refuted the police version of events.

“We did not put out any deliberate falsehoods or twist any facts. TOC reported in good faith. TOC did not coach the lady or coax her into answering questions in any particular manner.”  

Shanmugam today rejected the appeal.

Shanmugam on Tuesday publicly called out TOC for taking “advantage” of the woman to “attack” the police, who said they were trying to help the woman get home and even bought her some food. 

The incident emerged after a bystander posted videos of that encounter earlier this month, alleging the cops were harassing and shouting at her. 

In the interview with TOC, the woman said that the police did not buy her food and instead “chased her back” home.

The site said it updated its original post “almost immediately” after the police released their statement addressing the situation on May 19, two days after the incident. However, it said the so-called fake news law, aka POFMA, failed to take the changes into account in its correction order.

Shanmugam said he rejected TOC’s appeal as it did “not disclose any grounds to the contrary” after the site asked him to revoke it, arguing that its reports were “fair.”

“TOC’s post had already been updated to carry almost in full the SPF’s clarification, nor the fact that all TOC readers accessing the post from that time would have understood the police’s position. Singaporeans can judge for themselves if this is an appropriate use of POFMA against TOC. We certainly do not think so,” the site wrote.

They said that its interview with the woman occurred by “pure chance” after she showed up at the same location where the original video had been filmed, where they had gone to ascertain audio conditions pertaining to how the officers sounded in the video. The site denied manipulating or forcing her to say things as accused by Shanmugam.

The original videographer apologized after the police denied harassing the woman. On Tuesday, the force released bodycam footage to prove that they did buy her food from a nearby eatery and simply instructed that she should wear a mask.

Update: This story has been updated with a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Other stories you should check out:

Site ‘took advantage’ of elderly woman to amp up police harassment claims: Shanmugam

Singapore man very sorry for accusing police of harassing maskless woman

Singapore woman films alleged racist encounter on the bus (Video)

Police nab driver they say crashed BMW after high-speed Tampines expressway chase (Video)

Suspect arrested in gut-wrenching Singapore train attack no one tried to stop (Video)

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