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SDP expresses concern over Elections Department’s action against socio-political site

New Naratif's Dr Thum Ping Tjin summoned to police station for investigations, later officers escort him home and seize his laptop

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Singapore — The opposition Singapore Democratic Party has expressed concern over the actions of the Elections Department (ELD), after it lodged a police report against the New Naratif socio-political website for allegedly breaching the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) during this year’s General Election.

In a press statement on Friday (Sept 18), the ELD said New Naratif published five paid advertisements on Facebook during the election period that “amounted to the illegal conduct of election activity under S83(2) of the PEA”.

Under the Act, 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, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office, 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”.

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The police summoned New Naratif founder and Managing Director, Dr Thum Ping Tjin, for investigations at Clementi Police Station on Monday morning (Sept 21). Later in the afternoon, police officers escorted the historian to his home and seized his laptop.

Any person convicted of unauthorised election activity can be jailed for up to 12 months, fined up to S$2,000 or both.

The SDP expressed concern over the ELD’s action against the socio-political website in a press statement on Facebook on Tuesday (Sept 22). Using hashtags that convey that neither journalism nor activism are crimes, it said:

“The SDP is concerned about the continued harassment of activists and independent journalists in Singapore, the latest being Dr Thum Ping Jin. As a citizen, Dr Thum was exercising his rights to comment on the political situation in Singapore.”

It added: “The Elections Department (ELD) should not operate in a partisan manner. If it wants to cite breaches of election rules, there are numerous incidents regarding the PAP that the ELD should look into.”

Press ReleaseThe SDP is concerned about the continued harassment of activists and independent journalists in…

Posted by Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The New Naratif also brought up the independence of the ELD in its initial response to the police report. In a statement on its website, it 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.”

The publication, which has had a number of run-ins with the establishment in the past, said that the use of the PEA against it is “a demonstration of the broad and arbitrary nature of the law”. It added:
“The PAP (People’s Action Party) lost the argument at the ballot box, and Prime Minister Lee promised humility. Instead, the Prime Minister’s Office is taking revenge against leading critics and independent media. They are repeating tired old tactics by abusing the Parliamentary Elections Act, just like after both the 2015 and 2016 elections when investigations were launched against critics.
“Singaporeans deserve better. We sent a clear message that we want a good, clean, effective government which governs on behalf of all Singaporeans, not petty thuggery and abuse of power.”

Police seize PJ Thum’s laptop after Elections Dept lodges report against New Naratif

Activist claims the police seized PJ Thum’s laptop to “strike fear” and disrupt his life

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