There are a few reasons some words/phrases have quote marks around them.
Of course, they are the newsmakers’ words, words so startling that the journalist wants to make sure readers realise that they haven’t been paraphrased. Or they are in quote marks because the journalist doesn’t know what to make of them,
Like today’s story on Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen’s interview ahead of SAF Day. I am referring to the story that everyone will read – about second-generation PRs who skip NS. They will face “harsh penalties’, said Dr Ng,’ and “adverse consequences”, said a Mindef spokesman. What they are, I have no clue. Such grand sounding words but what do they mean? The death penalty???? A written warning? I guess the quote marks are there for a reason – the journalist doesn’t know and the authorities aren’t telling. Sheesh.