HEALTH Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng was taken to task by Sin Chew Daily for alleging that four Chinese newspapers have been “blowing the issue out of proportion” in their reports on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
In its editorial with the heading “We beg to differ, Mr Minister,” the daily urged Chua to accept the role played by the media on health matters.
The newspaper’s stand, it said, was straightforward – to report the truth for the sake of safeguarding public health so that the people could have a full picture of the situation surrounding SARS and thus take appropriate preventive measures.
In a closed-door dialogue chaired by Acting Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Monday, Chua was reported to have told corporate leaders that the Chinese media in the country had blown the issue out of proportion.
“We are of the opinion that Chua’s allegations has deviated from the truth, and misled the Government and corporate leaders present as the minister has denied the positive attitude with which the Chinese papers have been handling the issue,” it said.
The daily said all its reports about SARS had been based on reliable sources, with no exaggerated facts or unverified hearsay.
“We agree that the ministry has the right to criticise when newspapers make errors in their reports or commentaries. But all criticisms have to be based on truth, just as the newspapers’ criticisms of the health authorities must also be based on truth,” it said.
Sin Chew, Nanyang Siang Pau and China Press also carried photographs of consumers and vegetable sellers in Singapore, with cash in their hands, rushing to lorries with baskets of greens from Malaysia due to the shortage in supply.
Singapore’s Pasir Panjang Wholesale Market has been ordered closed for 10 days following a probable SARS case involving a worker there.