Sept 3, 2011
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I left Jakarta the week before last, after 2.5 years of an extremely exciting and meaningful experience reporting on Indonesia. I have since left The Straits Times to pursue a new career outside journalism.
A few days ago, Wikileaks released a US Embassy cable that quoted my name. This is my response to it. I sent an excerpt of this note to my former editors at the ST. They replied to thank me for making these clarifications.
I met with a political officer of the US Embassy in 2008 for an informal contact meeting, prior to my Jakarta posting.
I am not making excuses – his cable misrepresented what I said and I would like to place on record what actually transpired.
I did not say or suggest that there was a “disconnect” between editors and reporters at the The Straits Times. Neither did I say I would “never write about racially-sensitive issues”. My comments were taken wholly out of context.
The political officer was interested in whether reporters and their supervisors in the ST newsroom ever disagreed on story angles. He suggested that reporters – especially those who had gone to school in a liberal environment such as in the US – would feel constrained for whatever reason in the newsroom.
My response included these points: That reporters and their editors did engage in discussions over how stories should be written – with the ultimate aim being to produce balanced reports – but that the editors would of course have the final word on what went into print.
What I also said was that I believe that the ST is run by smart people who strive to do what’s best for its readers, even as they face pressure from a government seeking to set the tone and form of media coverage.
This is a position I held openly and consistently throughout my eight-year career at The Straits Times.
I also stated that I would not want to write articles containing racially-charged remarks that could incite hatred or create rifts within society. I pointed out an example of how baseless comments could create or aggravate tensions among people. I am surprised that what I still believe to be a responsible position to take was misconstrued as self-censorship.
Neither did I suggest in any way that I was “discouraged” with my life as a Singapore journalist. I expressed my readiness to take on a new challenge and learn about a new country. I said that I would need a year at the very least to assess if the role was right for me.
My recent decision to leave journalism had everything to do with my own personal goals. I wanted to try something new and the right opportunity came up. It was not related to opinions referred to above that I openly held nor to the suggested – and misrepresented – angst the cable indicated I felt.
I have had a fulfilling and rewarding time working with my editors at the paper.