Singapore GE2020: Parties and candidates not required to submit scripts to IMDA for online campaign activities

Scripts for the party political broadcasts for parties fielding at least six candidates will still have to be submitted. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Political parties and candidates taking part in the July 10 general election can carry out online campaigning activities, including rallies, without having to submit their scripts to the authorities beforehand.

But scripts for the party political broadcasts for parties fielding at least six candidates have to be submitted, to ensure they are suitable for airing on national TV, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said on Sunday (June 28) on the Government's fact-checking website Factually.

This has been a requirement since the 1980s, it added.

Similarly, candidates have to send in the scripts beforehand for the constituency-specific broadcasts, which will also be aired on national TV.

The constituency-specific broadcast is a new feature in this general election that will give each candidate three minutes to reach out to voters in the constituency they are contesting.

The Factually clarification on Sunday comes a day after the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) had expressed its concerns over having to hand in the scripts of its party political broadcast speeches at least two days in advance.

The IMDA, in explaining why parties have to submit their scripts ahead of the recording, said it is required by national broadcaster Mediacorp.

This is "to ensure that contents do not contain libellous statements or statements that may cause racial or religious tensions", its statement added.

It noted that the arrangement has been in place since the 1980s, and that political parties and candidates have been told of it it at a briefing last Friday (June 26).

"Political parties and candidates should conduct election campaigning in a responsible and dignified manner that befits the seriousness of the election process," the statement added.

With physical rallies disallowed as a result of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, the political broadcasts have taken on added significance in this electoral contest.

On Saturday, Mr Michael Chua, PSP's organising secretary and candidate in Tanjong Pagar GRC, had said the party found it "disturbing" to have to submit its speeches 48 hours in advance and was worried the contents might be leaked before the broadcasts.

On Sunday morning, former political detainee Teo Soh Lung started a petition on entitled "No to IMDA requirement to submit script for online rally broadcast".

The petition, which has garnered more than 8,000 signatures as of Sunday evening, claims the requirement "prejudices the opposition parties and makes such broadcasts irrelevant".

"It gives the incumbent PAP the knowledge beforehand of what will be broadcast. This is grossly unfair to the opposition," it added.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.