Newspapers doing their job by naming vice ring's clients

The reputation of the 48 men charged with having sex with an underage prostitute may have been affected because of media coverage, but Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica) Yaacob Ibrahim said newspapers are only doing their job.

He was responding to a question posed by a reporter during a lunch-time talk, organised by the Singapore Press Club, about the implications that the media coverage might have on the men's personal lives and families.

Those involved in the case thus far include Howard Shaw, 41, grandson of the founder of cinema operator Shaw Organisation; Lee Lip Hong, 39, former Pei Chun Public School principal; and Swiss national Juerg Buergin, 40, former executive director of operations at UBS Investment Bank.

"You can't prevent the newspapers from reporting it, because that's what newspapers are supposed to do. That's what the media is supposed to do," said Dr Yaacob, adding that good sense has been exercised in the news reports.

"In terms of the coverage, I think we will leave it to the best judgment of the media far I can say there is no need for Mica to call the various agencies to tone it down," he said.

The media reports surrounding the high-profile online vice-ring case began last Monday when 44 men, including nine public servants, were charged. Four more were charged last Wednesday.

Out of the 48 men, Lee and Chua Ren Cheng, 31, a former teacher at River Valley High School, told the court they intended to plead guilty.

Yesterday, three men were back in court to fix a date for a discovery conference. They will return to court on June 11. The alleged pimp behind the online vice ring, 39-year-old Tang Boon Thiew, was charged last November but his appearance in court went unnoticed.

The underage prostitute purportedly at the centre of this case cannot be identified as there is a gag order on any particulars that could lead to her identification.

Mr Patrick Daniel, editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay Newspapers Division, defended the move to publish the names of the men involved.

He pointed out that newspapers have been publishing names in crime reports all along, and there is no difference between this case and previous ones.

"They made a mistake and life goes on. And we will go on, we're not going to hound them forever," said Mr Daniel.

"We just did our jobs."

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