The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today expressed concern over the summons issued to the managing director of the New Naratif news website, Thum Ping Tjin, to appear before the police on September 21, regarding a complaint filed by the Elections Department.   

“The police complaint against New Naratif is a blatant attempt to silence a leading independent media outlet and demonstrates the intolerance of the government towards critical voices in the country”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “Furthermore, the IPI global community is greatly concerned about the ongoing harassment of IPI member and New Naratif managing director, Dr. Thum Ping Tjin.”

“The government of Singapore should order the Elections Department to immediately withdraw the police report against the news website”, Trionfi urged. 

A police complaint against the news website was filed on September 18, by the Assistant Returning Office of the Elections Department for publishing paid advertisements during the campaign for the 2020 general elections in July, which allegedly amounted to illegal conduct of election activity. Police have confirmed that they are investigating the complaint. 

According to media reports, the Elections Department had instructed Facebook on three different dates in July to remove the five paid advertisements published on its platform. The department claimed that the advertisement placed by the website violated the Parliamentary Elections Act, which states that such advertisements can only be placed after obtaining consent from a candidate or their agent, whereas New Naratif had not procured written permission from any candidate. 

In a statement, New Naratif has described the action of the Elections Department as harassment, and a testimony to the government’s track record of arresting, abusing and intimidating critics.

“The PAP (People’s Action Party) lost the argument at the ballot box, and Prime Minister Lee promised humility. Instead, the Prime Minister’s Office is taking revenge against leading critics and independent media. They are repeating tired old tactics by abusing the Parliamentary Elections Act, just like after both the 2015 and 2016 elections when investigations were launched against critics”, the New Naratif statement said. 

“Singaporeans deserve better. We sent a clear message that we want a good, clean, effective government which governs on behalf of all Singaporeans, not petty thuggery and abuse of power”, the statement said.

New Naratif was founded by three Singaporeans in 2017, and provides evidence-based, in-depth research and reporting on Southeast Asia in a variety of formats and languages. It has been repeatedly attacked by the Singapore government since 2018, but has steadfastly adhered to its mission of informing and empowering the people of Southeast Asia.