MDA files police report against news website

A police report was made yesterday by regulator Media Development Authority (MDA) against news website The Middle Ground (TMG) for publishing the results of an opinion survey on the Bukit Batok by-election.

Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, it is an offence to publish the results of any election survey during the election period.

The title of the online article, "BB BE: 50 voters in Bukit Batok," suggested that electors in the by-election were surveyed, the Elections Department (ELD) said in response to media queries. "A significant number of those polled indicated the candidate they would vote for, directly or indirectly," it added.

The ELD also said MDA, on behalf of the Returning Officer, issued a formal notice at 9.30am yesterday asking TMG to remove the article "as soon as possible and no later than 3.30pm". MDA made a police report at 12.39pm. The police are looking into the matter.

ELD defined an election survey as " an opinion survey of how electors will vote at an election or of the preferences of electors with respect to any candidates or group of candidates or any political party or issue with which an identifiable candidate or group of candidates is associated with".

It said a separate TMG article, with its response to the MDA's take-down notice, had stated they asked Bukit Batok voters in the past week how they would vote.

ELD noted that similar action was taken in the past for surveys that contravened the law. For example, a stern warning was issued to The Straits Times and its editor in June 2013 for publishing an article titled "ST poll: More rooting for PAP" after the Writ of Election for the Punggol East by-election was issued.

Said ELD: "ST accepted that there was an internal lapse that led to the publication of the poll results, and it apologised."

Separately, ELD issued a statement noting that several online articles tantamount to election advertising were posted yesterday, the Cooling-Off Day. It reminded people not to post election advertising online or offline yesterday or today.

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'MDA files police report against news website'. Print Edition | Subscribe