The Singapore Police Force (SPF) seized historian Dr Thum Ping Tjin’s laptop from his home as part of its investigations into a complaint lodged by the Elections Department (ELD) against New Naratif – a socio-political website that was founded by Dr Thum in 2017.
The ELD, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office, filed a police report against New Naratif for “publishing paid advertisements that amounted to the illegal conduct of election activity under s83(2) of the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA)” during the 2020 General Election, that took place in July.
The PEA states that any election activity meant to promote one or more political parties or candidates or prejudice the electoral prospects of other parties or candidates can only be conducted with the written permission of the candidate or his election agent.
The ELD holds that New Naratif contravened the PEA since neither the organisation nor its representatives or agents “were authorised by any candidate or election agent in this General Election to conduct election activity.” Highlighting that New Naratif published five unauthorised paid advertisements on Facebook, the ELD said:
“Conducting election activity without authorisation by a candidate or his election
agent from the start of the campaign period is an offence under Section 83(2) of the
Parliamentary Elections Act. Any person convicted of such offence may be liable to a
fine of up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months.”
Questioning the independence of the ELD, New Naratif asserted that the police report against it is “a continuation of the PAP government’s attempts to intimidate independent media, and is an abuse of the PEA designed to strike fear into the hearts of the government’s critics and citizenry.”
In a statement published on its website, New Naratif said that the use of the PEA against it is “a demonstration of the broad and arbitrary nature of the law.” Claiming that the latest action by the ELD is a part of the “PAP government’s ongoing harassment campaign” against it, publication added:
“We condemn the abuse of the law to harass independent media and critics. We denounce the lack of independence of the Singapore Elections Department. We urge Singapore’s government to make Singapore’s elections free and fair, and adopt the recommendations proposed by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.”
Dr Thum was called up to Clementi Police Station for questioning this morning, around 10am. The publication shared on Facebook that friends and family who accompanied him to the station were told that the questioning will take some time and “won’t be over in 30-45 minutes.”
The historian, who also serves as managing director of New Naratif, was later taken to his home by police officer around 3.54pm, where the police seized his laptop.
BREAKING: New Naratif founder and managing director, PJ Thum, has been taken to his home where police have seized his laptop. #JusticeForNN #JournalismIsNotACrime