BLOGGING THE GENERAL ELECTION WORKSHOP

As part of the continual effort of the Community of Information Technology Experts (CITE), a blogging workshop was held on 12 March 2011 at the National Library to educate bloggers about the legal and political parameters of blogging the coming General Elections in Singapore. There have been some changes in the law so the workshop was conducted for students, writers and editors to be updated about the legal and political parameters of blogging before and during the General Elections.

The panel of highly accredited CITE speakers that shared during the workshop was made up of:

Topics covered included the laws on blogging during the general elections, the legalities that surrounded the uploading and sharing of media, privacy and plagiarism issues, defamation issues, and possible political risks involved.

The broad idea put across to attendees was that opinions reported should be ideas grounded in facts, and should never be personal. This would take civic discussions to a higher and more intellectual level of public discourse. Benjamin Ang advice was that bloggers should “be serious about it, and if there is a consequence involved, be willing to take it.”

Giving political commentary online, when done responsibly, can be an effective way of giving inputs to government policies. What bloggers should understand, however, is that though blogging is popular culture, political commentaries on blogs were more complex in many ways.

Closely related to political blogging is the issue of defamation. Mr Wong Siew Hong stated that the law of defamation applied equally to statements made on the Internet, and thus extends to blogging as well as the updating of social media channels. If a claim is brought, the burden of proving one of the defences lies on the defendant, and it is not easy to discharge. Moreover, it is also very costly to defend. Thus he advised bloggers to take extra care before publishing opinions. This meant that they should conscientiously check their facts. If caught up in an emotional situation, they should not post what they write in the heat of the moment immediately but let the post sit a day or two, or seek a third party opinion before posting the entry.

It is also important to know the OB markers and the acts that concern blogging. During the General Elections, prohibited content includes:

  • Election survey results during the election period
  • Election advertising by foreigners during election period
  • All forms of election advertising on polling day
  • Exit polls or forecasts on polling day

Any election advertising that is permitted during election period will have to conform with regulations.

Blogs are also free to publish the following types of political videos:

  • 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 produce by or on behalf of a political party and
  • Candidate’s declaration of politics or ideology produced by or on behalf of the candidate

Also discussed was the gazetting of The Online Citizen (TOC), a blog site which endeavours to reflect the views and opinions of ordinary citizens, as a political association. Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics, but if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they would be required to register with the MDA. Speakers clarified that this would have no effect on their activities, and that it only meant that they were required to ensure that they had to be transparent with their sources of finance.

With all these in mind, Professor Ang Peng Hwa summed up a political blogger’s role succinctly: it was not easy, but it is an important contribution and so it should be done and it can be done.

Reported by Stephanie Phua
Posted 23 March 2011

Disclaimer: This workshop was intended to provide a general summary only and should not be relied on as legal advice.