Laws on Blogging during the Singapore General Elections

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1 Laws on Blogging during the Singapore General Elections

2 Who We Are Boutique firm 10 lawyers Specialist practice -IT, telecoms International experience Set up in August books published, 1 in progress Ranked as leading firm in international surveys Asia-Pacific Legal 500 Asialaw Profiles Best Lawyers Chambers Managing IP Corporate International Magazine

3 Overview Sources of Singapore law Proposed Changes The Players Internet Election Advertising Prohibited Content & Prohibitions Regulated Content Films Act Registration Conclusion

4 Sources of Law Parliamentary Elections Act revised 2010 Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill 2010 Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) regulations 2003 Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS) report 2009 Other content regulations

5 Recent changes (AIMS) A branch of National Research Foundation Published a report in 2008 recommending the liberalisation of cyberspace The report made 26 recommendations 17 were accepted but the government differed from AIMS proposal in some areas Opted for a progressive and pragmatic approach

6 Recent Changes (AIMS) For candidates and political parties 2.3. Extend the positive list for Internet election advertising Allow election candidates and their political parties and agents to use new media tools on election manifestos and rally speeches to promote themselves E.g. podcasts, vodcasts and blogs

7 Recent Changes (AIMS) For Individuals AIMS recommendation (accepted) Allow individuals to participate in Internet election advertising Can participate by blogging or posting election materials.

8 Recent Changes (AIMS) Online Political Content 2.4. Liberalize the Films Act in phases To allow certain party political films under the amended Films Act for Internet election advertising during election To set up an independent advisory panel to advise the Board of Film Censors (BFC) on whether films are party political films, and if they can be allowed under the amended Films Act (now called Political Films Consultative Committee)

9 Internet Election Advertising Based on definitions of the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) Blogging can be considered Internet Election Advertising should the content involve politics

10 Definitions "election advertising" means any poster, banner, notice, circular, handbill, illustration, article, advertisement or other material that can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure the electoral success at any election for one or more identifiable political parties, candidates or groups of candidates; or to otherwise enhance the standing of any such political parties, candidates or groups of candidates with the electorate in connection with any election, and such material shall be election advertising even though it can reasonably be regarded as intended to achieve any other purpose as well and even though it does not expressly mention the name of any political party or candidate, but excludes any button, badge, pen, pencil, balloon and any other thing prescribed by the Minister by notification in the Gazette.

11 Definitions "publish" means make available to the general public, or any section thereof, in whatever form and by whatever means, including broadcasting (by wireless telegraphy or otherwise) and transmitting on what is commonly known as the Internet;

12 Parties involved (A) (B) Corporates including political parties and candidates Individuals (not including politicians) But if an individual uses his website and acts like a political party, then even though he calls himself "an individual", we will have to treat it like a political party. - Dr Balaji Sadasivan

13 Prohibited Content No publishing of election survey results during election period Where election period refers to the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the start of polling day at the election. Section 78C of the PEA provides: No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published the results of any election survey during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day at the election

14 Prohibited Content No publishing of exit polls or forecasts on polling day Section 78D of the PEA provides: No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published on polling day before the close of all polling stations on polling day (a) any statement relating to the way in which voters have voted at the election where that statement is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information given by voters after they have voted; or (b) any forecast as to the result of the election which is (or might reasonably be taken to be) based on information so given.

15 For individuals Prohibitions No publishing of election advertising by foreigners during election period Section 83(1A) of the PEA provides: An individual who is not a citizen of Singapore shall not knowingly publish or display, or knowingly cause or permit to be published or displayed, any election advertising in or among any electors in an electoral division during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the start of the eve of polling day at the election.

16 Prohibited Content All forms of election advertising are prohibited on polling day and eve of polling day unless exempted Section 78B of the PEA provides: No person shall, at any time on polling day or the eve of polling day at an election in an electoral division (a) knowingly publish, or knowingly cause or permit to be published, any election advertising in or among any electors in the electoral division; or (b) knowingly display, or knowingly cause or permit to be displayed, any election advertising on any vehicle, thing or structure within the electoral division or adjoining the electoral division.

17 Recent Changes Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill PEA prohibits publication or display of election advertising on Polling Day Exceptions Internet election advertising lawfully published before Polling Day does not need to be taken down on Polling Day Individual transmission of personal political views on the Internet, on a noncommercial basis, is permitted

18 Recent Changes Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill Clause 29 amends PEA to extend existing prohibition of election advertising on Polling Day to Cooling-Off day. Still allows individual transmission of personal political views on the Internet (on a non-commercial basis) Widened the exception to cover any form of telephonic or electronic transmission of personal political views by individuals to other individuals (on a non-commercial basis) eg SMS Take into account new forms of individual personal communication

19 Regulated Content Election Advertising permitted during election period conforming with regulations Section 78A of the PEA provides that the Minister may make: regulating election advertising and the publication thereof during an election period on what is commonly known as the Internet by political parties, and candidates or their election agents, including prescribing the features that must or must not appear or be used in any such election advertising

20 For Candidates and Political parties Section 4(1) of the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations Only certain forms of election advertising included in the positive list may be published on the Internet Other forms of Internet election advertising are prohibited - podcast

21 For candidates and political parties The Positive List a. any photograph of any candidate or group of candidates or any drawing or illustration which purports to depict any such candidate or group of candidates or to be a likeness or representation of any candidate; b. any historical or biographical information about, and any manifesto or declaration of policies or ideology of, the political party or the candidate or group of candidates; c. any message by electronic mail that promotes or opposes any political party or the election of any candidate or group of candidates, including one that takes a position on an issue with which a political party or candidate or group of candidates, as the case may be, is associated, and that complies with paragraph (2); d. any newsletter, journal or other periodical publication of the political party;

22 For candidates and political parties The Positive List e. any advertisement or material for the recruitment of members or subscribers of a political party or for acquiring the services of volunteers or canvassers for a candidate or group of candidates, and that complies with paragraph (2); f. any announcement of any meeting or constituency visit held or to be held by or on behalf of a candidate or group of candidates or the political party; g. any facility where persons can communicate with each other in real time through text messages (commonly known as a chat room) or post articles or letters for discussion or comment (commonly known as a discussion forum) and the provision and maintenance of which complies with the requirements in regulation 5; h. any electronic cross-reference on a web page (commonly known as a hypertext link) that links the web page directly to any other web page that either does not contain any election advertising or that contains election advertising the publication of which complies with these Regulations and is not proscribed by the Returning Officer.

23 For Individuals Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations

24 PERMITTED CONTENT Internet Election Advertising by political parties in line with Regulations Internet Election Advertising by individuals (Singaporeans) in line with Regulations Election Advertising written by foreigners All Election Advertising* Election Survey Results PROHIBITED CONTENT Exit Polls Before nomination day Nomination day Election period (XX days) Polling day After polling day

25 2. Recent Changes 1998 Amendments to the Films Act Rationale: Keep politics objective and rational rather than allow emotions to be whipped up in place of rational responses Party political films can be employed to sensationalise or present serious issues in a biased and emotional manner Not allow politics to be reduced to a contest where political parties and candidates promote themselves through camera angles, sharp and slick editing techniques or emotive, slanted presentations Section 33 of the Act hence prohibits the distribution of party political films. This includes links and embedded videos on blogs Offenders are liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years

26 Recent Changes Films (Amendment) Bill Rationale: The Internet has become a major source of multi-media information Rise of a global trend of new media and social networking tools being used in political discourse Australia s Kevin Rudd (Facebook) USA s Barack Obama (Youtube, Twitter, Flickr) Younger Singaporeans more media savvy, own blogs and facebook accounts Younger Singaporeans want more space for political discourse, greater engagement with the Government, and their views to be taken seriously

27 Recent Changes Films (Amendment) Bill With the Films (Amendment) Bill, Section 33 no longer applies to: Live recordings of events held in accordance with the law; Anniversary and commemorative videos of political parties; Factual documentaries, biographies or autobiographies; Manifestoes of political parties produced by or on behalf of a political party; and Candidate's declaration of policies or ideology produced by or on behalf of the candidate. Blogs are now free to publish the aforementioned types of political videos

28 For Individuals Registration Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. But if persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore Required to register with MDA.

29 Registration Registration of political sites is seldom enforced. However, due to the nature of recent cases (The Online Citizen), the possibility shouldn t be discounted if the blog in question is political in nature. Registrants are subjected to the same set of Class Licence conditions and the Internet Code of Practice as any other non-registered Internet Content Provider. The reason for requiring registration is to maintain a higher level of accountability of those responsible for such websites. Registration has not stopped political parties' websites from posting critical comments and engaging in free and open discussions on government policies and issues. -Lui Tuck Yew, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts

30 Registration Political Blogs may be required to Register as a political site with the Media Development Authority (MDA) Provide particulars of the team/person running them Broadcasting Act (Cap. 28) Internet code of practice An Internet Content Provider who is or is determined by the Authority to be a body of persons engaged in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political or religious issues relating to Singapore on the World Wide Web through the Internet, shall register with the Authority within 14 days after the commencement of its service, or within such longer time as the Authority may permit.

31 Registration Political Blogs may be required to Register with the Registry of Political Donations, limiting certain types of donations and requiring them to file donation reports periodically Political Donations Act (Cap. 236) [The Act] prohibits political associations and candidates from accepting donations except from permissible donors, and restricts the receipt of anonymous donations to less than S$5,000 in total per reporting period [The Act] requires political associations to file donation reports periodically with the Registrar of Political Donations

32 Conclusion Blogs must take note to ensure that: Their published content, if political in nature, falls under the Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations but changes are not available yet No form of election advertising (E.g. political blog posts, political articles etc) are to be written by foreigners No election survey results or exit polls are published No election advertising are published on polling day and the eve of polling day, subject to certain exceptions No political films that are prohibited under the Films Act are published/distributed on the blogs If made to register under the MDA and/or Registry of Political Donations as political sites, they follow the rules and regulations placed upon them

33 Title of Show Name of Presenter Thank you

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