2 editors disciplined after SPH internal inquiry investigates allegations of improper relations

SINGAPORE - Two editors from the Straits Times newsroom have been slapped with disciplinary measures following an internal investigation into allegations of misconduct.

Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) convened an internal inquiry after a member of its staff from ST was hospitalised last week. She is now recovering at home.

In a statement on Wednesday (Oct 3), SPH said: "Our top priority is to ensure she receives all the medical attention and assistance she needs, as well as to provide help to her family at this difficult time."

The SPH human resources-appointed panel looked into allegations made of two separate instances during which two ST editors had improper relations with a subordinate member of staff.

It found sufficient grounds to conclude that the two editors concerned had breached SPH's code of conduct.

"The two face disciplinary action, commensurate with the seriousness of their actions.

"One editor will be removed from his post, demoted and redeployed; the other will be given a written warning, have his salary docked, and redeployed," the SPH statement said.

It added: "SPH takes a serious view of any transgressions of its code of conduct for its staff and will not hesitate to take appropriate measures following a full and transparent inquiry process."

On Wednesday, soon after both men had been informed of these decisions, ST editor Warren Fernandez held a 45-minute town hall meeting for the ST newsroom and explained the company's decision, while also emphasising that the well-being of the junior staff member involved was SPH's main concern.

Mr Fernandez, who is also editor-in-chief of the English/Malay/ Tamil Media Group of SPH, noted that the inquiry process was led by individuals from outside of ST to ensure an impartial and transparent investigation was conducted. This was completed on Wednesday.

He added that as far as he knew, the police were not investigating the matter.

In response to a question about the nature of the allegations, Mr Fernandez said that the independent panel had found no evidence of harassment by the two editors.

The main issue, he said, was that the two editors had not reported their separate relationships with the junior staff member to HR or their editors.

"We want to make clear that this sort of behaviour is not acceptable in the ST newsroom. This is not who we are, or who we want to be," he said.

SPH stopped short of dismissing the two staff concerned as it took into account their good track record, he said, noting that "both had done good work in the ST newsroom".

Asked about some of the reports swirling around on social media about the circumstances that led to the staff member being hospitalised, he replied that a fair bit of this seemed to be divorced from the facts.

"It's best not to speculate, or believe everything you read online. Right now, our main concern is to help our colleague recover, and hopefully return to the newsroom when she is ready," Mr Fernandez told staff.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.