Singapore GE2020: ELD, IMDA issue advisory on party political films, use of paid online election advertising

SINGAPORE – In the lead-up to the polls, there has been a rise in the number of online videos with political themes produced by political parties, socio-political entities and individuals.

This has prompted the Elections Department (ELD) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to issue an advisory on Monday (June 29) reminding political parties, candidates and voters that they must not make, reproduce, import, exhibit or distribute party political films.

The joint statement also noted that socio-political entities and individuals who are not political parties or prospective candidates have been engaging in paid Internet election advertising.

Under the Films Act, party political films include those made by any person and directed towards any political end in Singapore, like those intended or likely to affect voting in an election here.

Certain types of films, however, are exempted from the law.

These include:

a) Live recordings of events held in accordance with the law such as live-streamed rallies and campaigning activities;

b) Anniversary and commemorative videos of political parties; and

c) Factual documentaries, biographies or autobiographies.

“This ensures that political debate in Singapore is conducted in a responsible and dignified manner, and not by using the film medium to sensationalise serious issues in a biased or emotional manner,” said the joint statement.

Those who make or publish non-exempted party political films may be investigated and prosecuted under the Films Act.

The statement also reminded people that any Singapore citizen can put up unpaid Internet election advertising on their own accord, except on Cooling-off Day on July 9 and Polling Day on July 10.

But the publishing of paid online election advertising could be deemed an election activity, it added. This would require authorisation by a candidate or an election agent from Nomination Day, under the Parliamentary Elections Act.

“This ensures accountability and that paid advertisements will not be used as a conduit for foreign interference in the elections process, or to bypass the election expense limits for political parties and candidates,” said the statement.

The same requirements apply to the conduct of election activity in traditional offline campaigning, it added.

All election advertising must contain the name of the publisher and every person for whom or at whose direction the election advertising is published.

For paid advertising, additional particulars that indicate it was paid for need to accompany the advertisement. This can be done by using words like “sponsored by” or “paid for by” on the material.

Neither paid nor unpaid online election advertising is allowed on Cooling-off Day and Polling Day.

“This is unless the election advertising was already lawfully displayed or published before the start of Cooling-off Day, and remains unchanged after its publication or display,” the statement said.

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