New Naratif says ELD's police report against it is harassment against Govt's critics, abuse of law

New Naratif was founded in 2017 by historian Thum Ping Tjin, freelance journalist Kirsten Han and comic artist Sonny Liew. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM NEWNARATIF.COM

SINGAPORE - The New Naratif website has responded to a recent police report filed against it by the Assistant Returning Officer of the Elections Department (ELD), calling it an instance of harassment against the Government's critics and an abuse of the law.

In a statement on Saturday (Sept 19), New Naratif said the police report is "a continuation of the PAP Government's attempts to intimidate independent media, and is an abuse of the Parliamentary Elections Act designed to strike fear into the hearts of the Government's critics and citizenry".

The ELD had said on Friday that it filed the police report after New Naratif published five advertisements during the campaign period of the general election in July, which the ELD said violated the Act.

One of the allegedly illegal advertisements featured a satirical video in the style of a perfume ad that accused Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of targeting his critics under the guise of the rule of law, among other things.

Under the Act, only election advertising that is done by or on behalf of a candidate is allowed. The ELD said New Naratif was not acting on behalf of any candidate when it published the ads on Facebook.

In its response, New Naratif repeated its position that Singapore's laws are written too broadly and therefore make legitimate political activity illegal without a permit. It added that the ELD's use of the Act against it demonstrates this.

The website also accused the Government of mounting an ongoing harassment campaign against it, describing itself as an independent media organisation that has been critical of the PAP Government.

It cited instances of such "attacks", including the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority's denial of its attempt to register in Singapore; Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam's questioning of New Naratif's motives and funding in a speech on the need for a law to guard against foreign interference in Singapore; and two correction directions issued against New Naratif under the fake news law.

New Naratif added that there were also "numerous attacks" on its managing director, historian Thum Ping Tjin, and its other founders and staff.

The website was founded in 2017 by three Singaporeans - Dr Thum, freelance journalist Kirsten Han and comic artist Sonny Liew.

Ms Han stepped down as the website's editor-in-chief in April this year.

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