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City Harvest verdict: What City News highlighted vs What the mainstream media reported

We can trust the mainstream media to be fair and balanced with its CHC coverage.

Martino Tan | October 21, 2015 @ 02:24 pm

Update [221015, 1930Hrs]: The FB post by City News was deleted. Mothership.sg has included a screenshot of the post that was taken yesterday.

Have you heard of news portal City News? It had been covering the City Harvest Church (CHC) trial intimately, devoting much manpower and resources to provide readers with up-to-date reports and videos about the trial.

A quick check on CHC’s official website confirms that City News is indeed linked to the church:

City_Harvest_City_News
Source: City Harvest Church website

Now, of course, there is nothing wrong with having a publication or website to cover events and news about the church.

But one would naturally be puzzled when the following was what City News posted on their Facebook page after the six City Harvest Church (CHC) leaders were on Wednesday morning found guilty on all the charges they faced, including criminal breach of trust and falsification of accounts:

City_Harvest_City_News_3
Which is deleted by the way.

Anyway, here is the screenshot of the post

City_Harvest_City_News_2

City Harvest Trial: Key Points from Oct 21, 2015Follow @citynewssg on twitter for latest updates on the trial #chctrial

Posted by City News on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Now, compare City News‘ version to Channel NewsAsia‘s version:

#CHCtrial: “No matter how pure the motive … these do not exonerate the accused persons,” said Judge See. All 6 #CityHarvest accused have been found guilty of all charges.LIVE UPDATES: bit.ly/1GotcZX

Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Even if City News was trying to be brief, this is taking it a bit too far. Was that really all the judge said? What were the six guilty of?

Anyway, let’s compare the four key points given by City News to what was reported in the mainstream media:

1. City News: “Conviction for all 6 in City Harvest case; sentencing set for 20 Nov.”

The Straits Times: “City Harvest trial: All 6 accused, including founder Kong Hee, found guilty of ALL charges”.

Channel News Asia: “The six leaders of the church — founder and senior pastor Kong Hee; deputy senior pastor Tan Ye Peng; former church board member and Chairman of CHC’s Investment Committee John Lam Leng Hung; former church board and CHC Investment Committee member Chew Eng Han; and former finance managers Sharon Tan and Serina Wee — were each convicted on between three and 10 counts of criminal breach of trust and falsifying church accounts.”

Mothership.sg verdict: Innocent until proven guilty. City News provided facts — all six accused were found guilty and sentencing was set for Nov. 20. However, City News omitted the fact that the accused were found guilty on not one or two, but all charges. This point was highlighted in all the other media.

2. City News: “Court notes there was no permanent loss to church.”

Straits Times: “They were accused of misappropriating $24 million in church funds, funnelling them into bogus investments that funded the singing career of the pastor’s wife Ms Ho Yeow Sun. Later, a further $26 million was used to cover their tracks.”

BBC News: “Six leaders of a huge Singaporean church have been convicted of fraud in a case worth S$50m.”

BBC_City_Harvest
Source: Screenshot of BBC article

South China Morning Post off the Associated Press: “Founder of Singapore mega-church City Harvest found guilty of embezzling US$35m”

Mothership.sg verdict: Guilty! How can there be no permanent loss to the church when your church leaders are found guilty in a S$50 million fraud case? Complaints about local media bias? Read the reports from BBC and South China Morning Post, who provided similar coverage to the verdict.

With Sun Ho now taking over as CHC’s Executive Director, even the most fervent CHC supporters will lament the “permanent loss to the church” with their losses of their founder and senior pastor Kong; and their deputy senior pastor Tan.

3. City News: “The 6 loved CHC, were motivated by Cultural Mandate and believed in Crossover Project.”

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here goes:

CHC_Chew
Source: The Straits Times

Chew is one of the six accused who was found guilty today. During the trial in September, Chew, who left the church in 2013,  claimed that Kong and one of the accused, had “personally gained” from the bond transactions intended to fund the Crossover. He highlighted one instance in 2008, where $200,000 from the bonds were transferred to Kong.

Mothership.sg verdict: Guilty! We do not know if a majority of the accused loved CHC and believed in the Crossover Project. But we know that at least one of the six thinks that it is a sham.

4. City News: “Judge: They trusted in the success of the Crossover, were convinced what they did was morally permissible.”

Channel News Asia: Judge See Kee Oon said the six “engaged in conspiracies to defraud and falsify accounts”, based on the “extensive documentary evidence” unearthed during a 140-day trial that spanned three years. He said two sets of bonds from music production firm Xtron and glass manufacturer Firna “were not genuine investments … and were all wrong uses of CHC’s funds”. He added: “I do not see how they can be said to have acted in good faith in relation to the charges they face.”

BBC: “But Judge See Kee Oon said the background facts of the case were ‘largely undisputed’ and that the ‘weight of evidence shows they were acting dishonestly‘.”

Mothership.sg verdict: Guilty! This wasn’t all that the Judge said. By quoting him selectively without putting his remarks in context, City News has framed the Judge’s comments in the most sympathetic way towards CHC.

Finally…

This is what City News aspires to be in its own description on its YouTube channel:

City News is an online news portal that provides news from a Christian perspective, featured in five categories: Church, Features, Interviews, Community and Lifestyle.”

That is fine with everyone, as long as City News covers news and current affairs in a fair and balanced way, albeit from a Christian perspective.

But it is not okay with everyone if City News chooses to cover news and current affairs from a pro-City Harvest Church and anti-truth perspective.

As the late U.S. senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Top photo from City News Facebook.

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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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