Will bloggers fall foul of ‘election advertising?’
Who’s stepping down? Who’s moving up? Who’s being moved to another ward?
Yes, we’re talking about the coming General Elections.
Are bloggers talking about it? You bet! Should they talk about it? We’ll see.
But I predict there’ll be a slew of informal coverage come rally time. In fact, ministerial and MP action is already hotting up online.
The popularity of digital photography coupled with the ease at which photographs are published online will see many proudly putting up pictures of themselves posing with Members of Parliament and ministers doing their rounds.
Blogger “Ephraim” (ephraim.blogspot.com) has photos of dignitaries at a recent Istana Open House.
In his blog, he wrote: “when the President’s car strolls (sic) onto the driveway, the Prime Minister is ready to greet him … simultaneously, Minister Mentor walks past the President and heads towards the car park with some seven bodyguards in tow in an array formation … now, that is cool … “
Get ready for more grassroot-level commentary of events such as these.
I also believe this will happen despite the provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act (statutes.agc.gov.sg), which, among other things, provide that the minister-in-charge may regulate “election advertising and the publication thereof during an election period on what is commonly known as the Internet by political parties, candidates or their election agents and relevant persons, including prescribing the features that must or must not appear or be used in any such election advertising”.
But what sort of “features” must or must not appear on election advertising, you may well ask? Or what is to be construed as election advertising?
Would blogs talking about elections and electoral candidates be construed as election advertising?
The Act defines “election advertising” as anything that is intended to:
â€¢ Promote or procure the electoral success at any election for one or more identifiable political parties, candidates or groups of candidates; or
â€¢ Otherwise enhance the standing of any such political parties, candidates or groups of candidates with the electorate in connection with any election.
Blogger and self-styled activist Alex Au (www.yawningbread.org) perused the provisions of the Act and came to a rousing conclusion that there’s not much bloggers can talk about regarding the elections.
“That’s it! And since the definition of ‘election advertising’ is very broad, and ‘relevant person’ means you and me, there’s not a lot that we are allowed to say!” he said.
There are some bloggers who remain undeterred (or ignorant?) of the relevant legislative provisions.
The site SG Rally (sgrally.blogspot.com) “has been set up to aggregate coverage of the elections. Not everyone can attend all the rallies. Not every rally is televised or covered.
Hence, the purpose of this blog”. The blogspot site lists an email address and encourages people to send video clips to Google Video (video.google.com) and from SG Rally, readers will presumably be able to click-through to videos of election rallies.
Will bloggers’ coverage of the elections in words, pictures and video be construed as “election advertising” and, consequently, be offside with the law?
I’m not sure but, in my humble opinion, posting a picture of yourself standing beside a minister wearing a T-shirt, shorts and a pair of sandals should not be construed as “enhancing” or “promoting” a particular candidate.
Mr Miyagi aka Benjamin Lee has been entertaining readers at miyagi.sg for over a year, and hopes to be able to vote this year.