Police reports filed over by-election ad breaches

An Elections Department (ELD) officer filed police reports yesterday against a socio-political site and two individuals for violating a ban on election advertising on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day for the Bukit Batok by-election.

The reports were made against online news site The Independent Singapore (TISG), former political detainee Teo Soh Lung, who turns 67 this year, and blogger Roy Ngerng, 35, ELD said in a statement.

All three published articles online or made Facebook posts on May 6, which was Cooling-off Day.

TISG also published an article on May 7, Polling Day.

Election advertising is prohibited on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

The ban is to give voters time to reflect rationally on the issues raised by candidates before they vote, ELD said.

Election advertising is defined as any material posted on any platform that is intended to enhance the standing of, or promote electoral success for, an identifiable party or candidate.

In filing the police reports, the assistant returning officer considered the nature of the posts and their potential impact, said ELD.

"Socio-political sites such as TISG that regularly promote, propagate and discuss political issues should be accountable and responsible for what they publish," it added.

TISG, in particular, continued to publish articles even after being told by the assistant returning officer not to post any election advertising during Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

As for Ms Teo and Mr Ngerng, ELD noted that they "regularly engage in the propagation, promotion and discussion of political issues".

Ms Teo, who contested in Yuhua in the 2011 General Election on a Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) ticket, published four posts on her Facebook page from 2.16am to 7.45am on Cooling-off Day.

These included an SDP photo calling for support for Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP's secretary-general and candidate in the by-election.

Dr Chee lost to the People's Action Party's Mr Murali Pillai, who was elected Bukit Batok MP with 61.2 per cent of the vote.

Mr Ngerng called for submissions of photographs for a campaign titled "I believe in Chee Soon Juan" in a blog post at 2.08pm on Cooling-Off Day.

Posting election advertising on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day is an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act.

A person convicted of the offence may be fined up to $1,000, jailed for up to 12 months, or both.

The police confirmed they have received the reports and are looking into the matter.

Posts, articles on Cooling-off Day, Polling Day

The Independent Singapore

The Independent Singapore (TISG) published online two articles on Cooling-off Day.

The first featured highlights of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's speech at the People's Action Party's (PAP) final rally on May 5, while the second compiled what Workers' Party members had said about the Bukit Batok by-election.

On Polling Day, TISG also published an article on a statement former PAP MP and presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock made on May 5, in which he said he had not and would not express an opinion on the by-election.

Ms Teo Soh Lung

Ms Teo made the following four posts on her Facebook page on the morning of Cooling-off Day: (a) A note that the PAP and Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) had not been given equal airtime and coverage on Channel NewsAsia on May 5, posted at 2.16am; (b) An SDP photo calling for support for its chief Chee Soon Juan, posted at 7.22am; (c) A picture with quotes from unnamed individuals stating why they would vote for Dr Chee, posted at 7.32am; and (d) A link to a transcript of SDP member Paul Tambyah's rally speech on May 5, posted at 7.45am.

Dr Chee lost to the PAP's candidate, Mr Murali Pillai.

Mr Roy Ngerng

On Cooling-off Day, Mr Ngerng posted a Facebook note at 2.08pm calling for people to submit photographs to a campaign titled "I believe in Chee Soon Juan".

On the same day, he published an article on the "I believe in Chee Soon Juan" campaign on his blog.

This article was first published on May 28, 2016.
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