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Shanmugam criticises TOC as ‘despicable’ for ‘twisting facts’ on incident involving elderly woman with dementia

SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has criticised alternative news website The Online Citizen (TOC) as "malicious" and "despicable" in the way it “twisted facts” in a video interview with a woman allegedly bullied by the police last week. He said that the police stood by their account that they were helping the woman.

Images taken from a police body camera. On the left, police can be seen handing food to a woman while on the right, they talk to the woman and her domestic worker.

Images taken from a police body camera. On the left, police can be seen handing food to a woman while on the right, they talk to the woman and her domestic worker.

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  • Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam described The Online Citizen Asia (TOC) as “malicious” and “despicable”
  • He was referring to a video interview the website had conducted with a woman depicted as being bullied by the police
  • TOC claimed that police officers had not bought food for the woman and had chased her away
  • Mr Shanmugam directed the police to release footage from an officer’s body-worn camera to “set out the facts”
  • The police said it was very sad and reprehensible that TOC had exploited a woman with dementia

 

SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has criticised alternative news website The Online Citizen (TOC) as "malicious" and "despicable" in the way it “twisted facts” in a video interview with a woman allegedly bullied by the police last week. He said that the police stood by their account that they were helping the woman.

In a rare move, the police on Tuesday (May 25) released footage from one of its officer’s body-worn cameras on its Facebook page, debunking TOC’s version of the incident. The footage was released with permission from the woman’s family, who has confirmed that the woman has dementia.

Last Wednesday, the police had refuted online posts by Instagram user “@nichology” accusing their officers of bullying a woman in Yishun, saying that they had been helping her find her way home instead.

The posts had alleged that four officers had clustered around a woman who took off her mask because she was feeling breathless and had continued telling her off even though she had worn a mask later.

In their statement, the police said that allegations of the incident, which occurred at Block 735 Yishun Avenue 5, were “not true”.

Passers-by had handed masks to the woman, and a domestic worker from the woman's household later arrived to take her home, they added.

The police said that they had also bought food for the woman, who has dementia.

Last Friday, the police also issued correction directions and targeted correction direction under the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) to Instagram user @nichology, Singapore Uncensored and The Online Citizen Asia for sharing the posts.

TOC’S INTERVIEW WITH WOMAN

On Tuesday, TOC published a video on Facebook of an interview with the woman, which it claimed countered the police’s account of the incident.

In the video, responding to questions posed by an interviewer, a woman is seen saying that the police had not bought her food and that she was “chased” back to her home.

TOC also published the original Instagram posts uploaded by @nichology with audio, and claimed that officers had told the woman to wear her mask.

POLICE STATEMENT 'CORRECT AND ACCURATE'

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Shanmugam said that TOC’s video clip is not clear and does not capture the points where TOC claimed that the police had lied.

“So I’ve asked the police to release the clips from their body-worn camera and you can see, it’s clear. Once you see it, there can be no argument. The police statement was correct, accurate and what TOC says is false,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“The body-worn camera shows that the police officer was helping the lady. He bought food for the lady, passed it on to her and the clip also shows exactly what was said by the police officer.

“The officer spoke in English to the elderly lady’s helper and the officer said, and I quote, ‘she never wear a mask, you know’,” he added. 

In the 36-second clip released by the police on its Facebook page, a police officer is seen buying two chicken wings from a stall.

“Cut and put chilli. The aunty requested for it,” the officer says in the video.

The police officers are then seen telling an individual, who they said is the woman’s domestic worker, to instruct the woman to put on her mask.

Mr Shanmugam said that the daughter of the woman had confirmed that the mother has dementia and was upset that TOC had taken advantage of her mother to “spin a story” and get her to say things.

He said: “I would say this is despicable and how low people will stoop. Unethical and cynical. This whole exercise by TOC is quite malicious to attack the police.” 

He added that it is a disservice to thousands of police officers who have been fighting on the frontlines to keep law and order during the pandemic.

In a separate statement issued on Tuesday, the police said that they stand by “the clarifications and veracity of events” in their statement last Wednesday.

“The inclusion of live audio in the online post showing police officers engaging an elderly woman does not change the fact that police officers did not taunt or reprimand her,” they said in their latest statement.

Mr Shanmugam said that it was “malicious” of TOC to attack the police. He described one of the officers in the video as “an officer with a heart” who helps out at family service centres in his spare time.

“The officer who is seen speaking in the video has 23 years of service in the Singapore Police Force and 21 years in Yishun South Neighbourhood Police Post.

“You maliciously attack police officers like this who spend their entire life servicing Singaporeans. He is an officer with a heart,” Mr Shanmugam said.

“It’s not part of a police officer’s duty to go and buy food for people who are lost, but instead he gets branded as a bully. It’s really quite sad.”

Mr Shanmugam called on TOC to keep its “venom and malice” to politics.

“Don’t bring that toxicity to attack police officers. Spare them. They are just doing their job.” 

The law minister said that he had directed the police to release the video of the body-worn camera “to set out the facts”.

In its statement on Tuesday, the police also said that it was “very sad and reprehensible” that TOC had exploited a woman with dementia to sow falsehoods.

It advised the public not to post or share unverified information online and urged the public to be responsible when posting or sharing information online.

Related topics

Pofma K Shanmugam police The Online Citizen online falsehoods dementia

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