A Singapore newspaper is facing calls to explain its decision to omit a well known gay couple in its Valentine’s Day special titled ‘Singapore’s art power couples on the secrets to their success.’
In the 1,700 word story published by Today on Friday, it mentioned four heterosexual couples who work alongside each other in performance and visual arts in the opening paragraphs and featured interviews with three other heterosexual couples in the arts scene in Singapore.
Ivan Heng, a Cultural Medallion winner (Singapore’s highest accolade for artists), and his husband Tony Trickett who run Wild Rice, one of Singapore’s most active and high profile theatre companies, as the founding artistic director and executive director respectively are conspicuously missing from the story.
In a Facebook post, Heng wrote on Saturday that they had agreed to be part of the feature and was interviewed by journalist Mayo Martin.
‘We’ve been informed that the section featuring me and Tony was pulled at the last minute by the higher editors because “it didn’t fit with the rest of the profiles throughout the couples series of stories.” We note that we were not even mentioned in the list of couples running theatre companies in the opening paragraphs.’
Heng, who married his partner of 18 years in the UK in 2014, asked: ‘What could this mean? Would the higher editors care to identify themselves and explain their decision?’
Section 377A of Singapore’s Penal Code criminalizes sex between mutually consenting men and carries up to a two-year jail term.
While the authorities in Singapore periodically bans things like a music video by Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai that features a lesbian kiss and wedding from TV and radio broadcasts, and an Archie comic for depicting same-sex marriage, it is not clear what the media can or cannot report.
Although Heng and Trickett’s marriage was reported by Singapore’s Straits Times in August 2014, it is also known that the Media Development Authority has reprimanded editors and publications for featuring LGBT people or focusing on LGBT issues.