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TOC editor and writer to be charged in court for criminal defamation tomorrow

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The Singapore Police Force has revealed that the editor of local socio-political website, The Online Citizen (TOC), Terry Xu, will be charged in court tomorrow with criminal defamation. The police will also charge a writer, Daniel Augustin De Costa, with criminal defamation and unauthorised access to computer material under the Computer Misuse Act.

Earlier in October, the Info-communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA) made a police report against TOC and a writer named Willy Sum after the website published an article titled “The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook Post”, purportedly written by Sum.

The article drew the Government’s attention for making allegations of corruption against certain individuals. The Attorney-General’s Chambers subsequently allowed the police to investigate the matter. The police obtained a court warrant to search the homes of Xu and Sum.

When the police searched the homes of Xu and Sum on 20 Nov, they found out that the contentious article was written by Daniel Augustin De Costa under the name of Willy Sum. The police conducted a search of De Costa’s home thereafter.

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The police say that investigations suggest that De Costa wrote the article and emailed it to TOC using Willy Sum’s email account. Xu reportedly published the article on TOC without verifying the identity of the author.

Both Xu and De Costa are now set be charged for criminal defamation for the publication and authorship respectively of the article. De Costa will be charged with unauthorised access to computer material as well, because he accessed Willy Sum’s email account and sent the email without permission from Sum.

In the statement, the police also addressed the allegations against their actions in this case:

“There were allegations made against police’s actions with regard to this case, including how Police had supposedly over-reached by seizing the electronic equipment of those involved.
“As part of its investigations, the police had seized electronic equipment including laptops, mobile phones and hard drives from Xu and De Costa. This was necessary to secure and preserve evidence.
“The seizure of the electronic equipment from Xu and De Costa uncovered evidence pointing towards the identity of the true author of the article, in this case, De Costa. It was also alleged in a posting written ostensibly by De Costa’s mother that the police had unreasonably prevented De Costa from leaving Singapore for an overseas trip.
“The police had to act quickly as we had obtained information which suggested that De Costa was the true author of the offending article.”

Xu and De Costa may face up to two years in jail and/or a fine, if convicted of criminal defamation. De Costa may face up to two years in jail and/or a $5000 fine if he is found guilty of unauthorised access to computer material.

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