Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Historian Thum Ping Tjin given stern warning by police over 5 illegal election ads

SINGAPORE — The police have issued a stern warning in lieu of prosecution to historian Thum Ping Tjin and his company, Observatory Southeast Asia, for publishing five paid advertisements during the 2020 General Election (GE) illegally.

The illegal ads “were intended to prejudice the electoral prospects of a political party during GE 2020”, the police said on Wednesday (Sept 15).

The illegal ads “were intended to prejudice the electoral prospects of a political party during GE 2020”, the police said on Wednesday (Sept 15).

  • Dr Thum Ping Tjin consented to the publication of five illegal paid internet ads on New Narratif, which he is a co-founder of, during the 2020 General Election (GE)
  • Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, authorisation is needed by the candidate or his election agent for paid internet ads during the campaigning period
  • Police investigations found that the ads were meant to prejudice the electoral prospects of a political party during the GE
  • Police issued a stern warning to Dr Thum following a consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers 

 

SINGAPORE — The police have issued a stern warning in lieu of prosecution to historian Thum Ping Tjin and his company, Observatory Southeast Asia, for publishing five paid advertisements during the 2020 General Election (GE) illegally.

In a statement on Wednesday (Sept 15), the police said that investigations had revealed that the ads, which were published on socio-political website New Narratif, “were intended to prejudice the electoral prospects of a political party during GE 2020”.  

As such, they are considered a form of election activity that is regulated under the Parliamentary Elections Act. The law stipulates that doing so without authorisation by a candidate or his election agent from the start of the campaign period is an offence.

Dr Thum, who co-founded New Narratif with freelance journalist Kirsten Han and comic artist Sonny Liew in 2017, could have been jailed up to 12 months and fined S$2,000 for the offence under the Act. New Narratif is published by Observatory Southeast Asia, which Dr Thum owns. 

The police also noted that New Narratif had received a grant from the United States-based Foundation Open Society Institute in March 2018, according to the sociopolitical site’s transparency reports.

The website also received funding from 1,303 members, including foreign citizens, as of the end of August last year, said the police, adding that its decision to issue the stern warning to Dr Thum was made in consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

Police investigations began after the Elections Department (ELD) made a police report over the five ads.

At the time, the Assistant Returning Officer had issued a notice on July 3, 2020 to Facebook to remove five unauthorised paid advertisements published on its platform by New Naratif. 

The ELD had also issued a media statement that same day to remind the public that any paid internet advertising from the start of the election campaign period would require authorisation from the candidate or an election agent.

A total of three takedown notices were issued to New Narratif by the ELD throughout the GE period.

While New Narratif acknowledged the takedown decision by ELD, it continued to publish four other ads on the platform, which led ELD to make the police report.

In its response then, New Narratif said the report was "a continuation of the People’s Action Party Government's attempts to intimidate independent media, and is an abuse of the Parliamentary Elections Act designed to strike fear into the hearts of the Government's critics and citizenry”.

Later that month, Dr Thum reiterated that the police’s investigation was “an abuse of the law by the Prime Minister’s Office” after his home was searched by police officers.

The police said on Wednesday: “As part of the investigation process, the police interviewed Mr Thum on two occasions, and his mobile phone and laptop were seized for forensic examination as part of investigations in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Code.”

Related topics

Elections Department Singapore Police Force Thum Ping Tjin New Narratif

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.