[Singapore] The Online Citizen’s editor released after eight hours of police custody, interrogation

Photo caption: Error 404 appears in place of The Online Citizen post that became the basis of the criminal defamation investigation.



Terry Xu. (SEAPA File Photo)

For allegedly besmirching the reputation of some of Singapore’s highest officials, the editor of a major independent online platform in the city-state has become the subject of a police probe.

Terry Xu, chief editor of The Online Citizen (TOC) is the respondent to a criminal defamation case that is being investigated by police.

The homes of Xu and Willy Sum – contributor of the letter, which is the basis of the complaint – were raided and their laptops and other electronic devices seized by police on 20 November 2018. By 3 p.m. on the same day, Xu was held in custody by the Singapore Police Force before he was released eight hours later. He reported at the Cantonment Police Complex and was “apparently called in for interrogation.”

On Tuesday noon, before Xu came to the police station, the online site known for its independent reports on socio-political issues announced on its Facebook page that it “will be on hiatus for the time being as all electronic equipment used for the purpose of the website have been seized by the Singapore Police Force for an investigation into an alleged offence of Criminal Defamation under Section 21 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code Chapter 68.”

The police have yet to return the electric equipment desktop, mobile devices, and laptops taken on Tuesday morning.

According to reports, TOC and Xu are being investigated for publishing the letter “The take away from Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook post” on 4 September 2018. As of this posting, the letter is no longer accessible. TOC complied with the 18 September 2018 takedown order issued by IMDA citing section 16(1) of the Broadcasting Act.

The Straits Times reported that the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA), a statutory board under the Ministry of Communications and Information, lodged the police report. The alleged offense was based on “serious allegations that undermine the public’s confidence in the Government’s integrity.”

According to the letter under question, “(t)he present PAP (People’s Action Party) leadership severely lacks innovation, vision and the drive to take us into the next lap. We have seen multiple policy and foreign screw-ups, tampering of the Constitution, corruption at the highest echelons and apparent lack of respect from foreign powers ever since the demise of founding father Lee Kuan Yew.”

The PAP has been the ruling party in Singapore since the city-state gained its independence in 1965.

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