Ban on election advertising – Heads I win, tails you lose?

It was reported yesterday (16 Feb) that the police have issued stern warnings to individuals for breaching election advertising ban on Cooling-Off Day (6 May 2016) and Polling Day (7 May 2016) during the Bt Batok by-election last year.

In particular, the police issued warnings to the editors running TISG news site.

“The prohibition of election advertising on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day allows voters time to step back from the excitement and emotion of campaigning, to reflect on the issues at stake before casting their votes,” said a police spokesman.

“The Cooling-Off Day breaches detected during the 2016 Bukit Batok by-election go against the spirit of the election rule. Left unchecked, such breaches can undermine public trust in Singapore’s electoral process.”

In the case of TISG, it was the Assistant Returning Officer of the Elections Department under PMO, who filed a police report against it for publishing 3 offending articles on those 2 days:

1. “5 highlights of DPM’s speech — Tharman wants to debate with Chee, but not in Parliament”
2. “Workers’ Party and the Bukit Batok by-election — What the WP members said” – what WP members said about the by-election before the actual campaigning but TISG unfortunately repeated it during those 2 banned days
3. “Tan Cheng Bock denies involvement in posting by irrational group of PAP fans” – a report about Dr Tan countering a pro-PAP Facebook page saying that he is supporting Dr Chee.

Meanwhile, these prohibition rules do not apply to any mainstream media. Election Dept said: “There are some exceptions to the prohibitions of knowingly publishing or displaying election advertising on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day: a) Reports in the newspapers, on radio and television relating to election matters…”

So, for example, if the same article (3) above appeared on ST, ST will not be in trouble. And that means ST can even potentially publish a personal interview with PAP candidate Murali on Cooling-Off Day, showing how good a family man he is, and still get away with it – all in the name of “relating to election matters”!

Coming back to what the police spokesman said, can I ask how is allowing mainstream media to give, say, more coverages to the PAP candidate during the 2 banned days not going against the spirit of the election rule?

Doesn’t media reporting of candidates during the 2 banned days also undermine public trust in Singapore’s electoral process?

Err… “Heads I win, tails you lose”?

*The above is a Facebook post by We want Minister Grace Fu to resign

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