SINGAPORE: A police report has been filed against New Naratif by the Assistant Returning Officer for publishing paid advertisements during the recent General Election, said the Elections Department (ELD) on Friday (Sep 18).
ELD said New Naratif published paid advertisements that amounted to illegal conduct of election activity under the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA).
The Assistant Returning Officer had issued three notices to Facebook on Jul 3, 7 and 8 to remove five unauthorised paid advertisements published on its platform by New Naratif, said ELD.
"Under the PEA, the conduct of any election activity requires prior written authority signed by a candidate or his election agent," it said.
Election activity includes any activity that is done for the purpose of promoting or procuring electoral success at any election for "identifiable" political parties, candidates or groups of candidates, said ELD.
It also includes "prejudicing the electoral prospects of other political parties", candidates or groups of candidates at the election.
"Neither New Naratif nor its representatives or agents were authorised by any candidate or election agent in this General Election to conduct election activity," said ELD.
After the first takedown notice was issued to Facebook on Jul 3, ELD said in a media statement that New Naratif was "deemed" to be conducting election activity for placing paid Internet Election Advertising, and that it was not authorised to do so.
The statement, which also reminded the public of the regulations, was published by various media outlets, said ELD.
However, on Jul 4, New Naratif publicised the takedown decision and continued to publish other paid advertisements, said ELD.
Responding to queries from CNA, the police confirmed a report was lodged against New Naratif for alleged breaches of the Parliamentary Elections Act.
"Police investigations are ongoing," they added.
In response to CNA's queries, Mr Thum Ping Tjin, the managing director of New Naratif, condemned the police report, describing it as "harassment".
Conducting election activity without authorisation by a candidate or his election agent from the start of the campaign period is an offence under the Parliamentary Elections Act, said ELD.
Those convicted may face a fine of up to S$2,000, up to 12 months' jail, or both.
ELD said in response to queries from CNA that there were "no other instance of unauthorised paid advertisements during the General Elections that ELD had acted on".