Man fined $1k for organising procession

Man fined $1k for organising procession

A man was fined $1,000 yesterday for organising a public procession to show support for the "million mask march Singapore" and to oppose new media regulations here.

Former claims officer Jacob Lau Jian Rong, 24, now a bank teller, admitted to the offence that took place last Nov 5, Guy Fawkes Day.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jane Lim told the court that Lau and nine others were arrested at a taxi stand outside Robinsons at Raffles City shopping centre that evening on suspicion of having committed offences against public order.

Several of them had at least one Guy Fawkes mask, and one had donned a mask.

Investigation showed that the group had been part of a public procession in support of the million mask march, an online movement calling for 24-hour protests globally on Guy Fawkes Day. It encourages supporters to wear Guy Fawkes masks as a form of social protest.

The court was not told what the new media regulations were.

But under new rules imposed on June 1 last year, websites which publish at least one local news article a week over a period of two months, and which have at least 50,000 unique visitors every month must obtain an annual licence.

Licensed websites are required to remove "prohibited content" within 24 hours of being notified by the Media Development Authority.

The movement was promoted in Singapore on various social media platforms such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, and on an event page titled "million mask march Singapore" created by an unknown user earlier in July.

A few days before the Raffles City event, there was a spike in posts on the event page, asking supporters to gather at Hong Lim Park on Nov 5 for the march.

Police had issued a public advisory that day, saying it is illegal to organise or take part in a public assembly without a permit.

Inspired by the discontent expressed on the event page, Lau went to Hong Lim Park that morning only to find the march did not happen. He then talked to a few people who had shown up about postponing the march to the evening.

That afternoon, he posted on the event page that the march had been postponed to 7pm at City Hall MRT station, attracting comments from more than 100 netizens.

Participants agreed to dress in black and/or red, put on a Guy Fawkes mask and move in groups of four to minimise the possibility of the public calling the police.

Lau arrived at City Hall MRT station at 7.25pm and met nine others. Most were dressed in red and black, and one donned a Guy Fawkes mask. Police arrested them before they could move off.

The court heard that Lau did not have a valid permit to organise the public procession to demonstrate support for the movement and opposition against the new media regulations.

His lawyer Amerjeet Singh had tried to persuade District Judge Chay Yuen Fatt to call for a probation report, saying his client was young and plans to further his studies. He said Lau "has learnt his lesson the hard way".

The maximum penalty for the offence is a $5,000 fine.

This article was first published on Sept 17, 2014.
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