March 12th, 2010
The Government has introduced amendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act that would extend the existing ban on Polling Day campaigning to include the eve of Polling Day. The move was expected. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had said that a “cooling off” period was necessary to help voters make rational choices.
Although intended to regulate campaigning, the proposed amendments could also affect citizen journalism. “News” is exempted from the law. However, this exemption covers only licensed media. Internet-only publications, including citizen journalism sites such as The Online Citizen, Yawning Bread and many others, are not individually licensed and so not considered publishers of news under this law.
This effectively means that their reports of the final rallies must be posted the same night. If they are posted the following day, the eve of Polling Day, they could be charged with violating the “cooling off” law.
On the bright side, they would not be expected to take down content that was already on their websites. The law would exempt election advertising lawfully published before the start of the eve of Polling Day, as long as it is not subsequently modified.