Sharing Preetipls rap video 'may be an offence'

Authorities advise public not to share video, which is under police investigation for 'intent to wound racial feelings'

Anyone who shares a rap video that is being investigated by the police could also run afoul of the law, a lawyer warned yesterday.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Tuesday that the three-minute clip, which took aim at a racially insensitive advertisement, had crossed the line by attacking Chinese Singaporeans with vulgarities.

Yesterday, the police and the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said the public should refrain from sharing the video.

Local YouTube entertainer Preeti Nair and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair, had created the video in response to a controversial ad campaign by Nets to promote e-payments for small food businesses.

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The ads featured Mediacorp actor and DJ Dennis Chew wearing a tudung and darkening his skin to portray characters of other races.

The video was posted on various social media platforms on Monday evening and was taken down at about 6pm on Tuesday after IMDA issued a notice to the Nair siblings.

IMDA told The New Paper yesterday that it was aware the video is being re-shared on social media, and it had issued notices to the individuals and Internet platforms to remove it.

At press time, a copy of the video that was re-uploaded on YouTube was no longer available. In its place was a notice that read: "This content is not available on this country domain due to a legal complaint from the government."

IMDA did not say how many notices it had issued.

It had earlier said the video constitutes prohibited content under the Internet Code of Practice, as it is objectionable on the grounds of public interest and national harmony.

The New Paper understands the video is being investigated under Section 298 of the Penal Code, which covers uttering words with deliberate intent to wound racial or religious feelings.

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Offenders can be fined, jailed for up to three years, or both.

Lawyers said those who share the video may also be breaking the law.

Mr Adrian Tan from TSMP Law Corporation said it is a criminal offence to communicate anything that promotes ill-will between racial or religious groups - whether it is the creator or anyone else who is spreading the communication.

"If you receive any message, image or video on social media that is aimed at hurting another group, don't share it," he said.

Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said IMDA's move to take down copies of the video seeks to reduce its spread before more damage is done, and is a temporary measure.

"If the video is assessed to not be in violation of the relevant laws, it can be shared and circulated," he said.

Addressing censorship concerns, Associate Professor Tan added: "The move is certainly driven by prudence rather than an attempt to bluntly censor a particular point of view."

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The furore over the video has also cost Mr Nair, 27, professionally. The rapper has been axed from a Channel NewsAsia (CNA) documentary, Roar, due to air this weekend.

It was supposed to feature him and three other local musicians, Benjamin Kheng, Aisyah Aziz and Wang Weiliang, with new music for National Day. He worked with Migrants Band Singapore to write Utopia, a song about migrant justice.

The news channel said yesterday: "CNA strongly objects to all such offensive content which threatens racial harmony and will not associate with individuals who intentionally create such content."

Politicians have slammed the rap video, and they also said the ad that sparked it was distasteful and unacceptable.

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said on Facebook yesterday that some understanding should be extended to the authorities to manage and pre-empt potentially problematic issues when it comes to matters of race and religion.

In response to queries, the police said a report had been made against the ad.

Professor Ang Peng Hwa, chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore, said its Council did not find the ad to be in breach of the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice.

No further action is currently required as the ad has ceased and the creative agency behind it, Havas, has made a public apology, he added.

He said the ad did not explicitly put down any ethnic group or employ harmful stereotypes, and noted Havas' explanation that this was not its intention.

Last night, Nets issued an apology and said the campaign was in connection with the unified e-payment initiative, a multi-agency effort led by Enterprise Singapore.

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.