Thursday, 5 July 2012

Police probing by-election poll published by Straits Times: Elections Department

Update 25 Jul 2013: Hypocrisy
The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez was only let off with a ‘stern’ warning after many, many months of investigation (that really let me doubt the efficiency of our police force) for publishing a poll on the results of the General Election on Cooling Day, when it is by law unlawful to comment.

However, a fellow netizen was criminalized for a similar act (and this time the police took a much, much shorter time to solve. Any reason for this?). If I am to do something similar to what Warren Fernandez had done, what do you think will happen to me? So my questions to the government are: What is the difference between the 2 cases?

In view of the wider reach of audience the Straits Times has and the professionalism expected of a national and responsible newspaper, wouldn’t the act by Warren Fernandez warrant a greater offense? And why did the police force took such a long time to conclude their ‘investigation’ for Warren Fernandez? Is it that complicated? Is it due to the incompetence of the force? Or is it due to other reasons that the government has?

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Police issue stern warning to SPH and ST editor

Police on Thursday issued a stern warning to The Straits Times (ST) editor Warren Fernandex and Singapore Press Holdings, over a January report on the Punggol East by-election that was published in the newspaper. -- ST FILE PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The Attorney General's Chambers (AGC) said in a statement on Thursday that the stern warning was issued in lieu of prosecution for the offence of publishing a poll after the writ of election had been issued.

The article, headlined "ST Poll: more rooting for PAP," presented the views of 50 Punggol East residents that reporters had interviewed."

The publication of polls from the day the writ of election is issued until the close of polling stations on Polling Day is prohibited by the Parliamentary Elections Act.

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Joseph Ong vs Warren Fernandez – one arrested, the other not. Why?

The news reported today that the police has issued a “stern warning” to the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and the Straits Times’ editor, Warren Fernandez.

The warning is the result of a 5-month investigation by the police into the conduct of an election poll by the Straits Times during the Punggol East by-election in January this year which is against election laws in Singapore.

In 2011, blogger Joseph Ong from the Temasek Review blog asked readers to post their vote choices on the Facebook page of the blog on Polling Day during the general election that year. Ong was arrested 3 months later and eventually was also given a warning by the police.

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Police probing by-election poll published by Straits Times: Elections Department


The Elections Department (ELD) has confirmed an ongoing police investigation into an election poll result published by Singapore's largest daily broadsheet, The Straits Times, earlier this week.

“In response to media queries about the poll on the Punggol East By-Election published in The Straits Times on 10 Jan 2013, the case is currently being looked into by the Police,” said a spokesman for the ELD in a statement to Yahoo! Singapore on Sunday evening.

The ST article published on the said date was headlined, "ST poll: More rooting for PAP" and gave information detailing which party some 50 residents were planning to vote for.

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Elections Department says police looking into ST report

This sparked comments online that ST might have contravened the law, since Section 78C of the Parliamentary Elections Act forbids the publication of "the results of any election survey" from the day the writ is issued to the close of all polling stations on Polling Day.

Responding to this, Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez said the paper would co-operate with any police investigation into the report. He said: "Our reporters spoke with residents in Punggol East to get their comments and a sense of the ground for our election reports. This was not a full-scale survey, or scientific poll, by any means.

"The headline for our story overstated the significance of the information gathered by calling it a poll. We are sorry for this lapse."

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Police looking into ST's publication of poll findings

The police are looking into The Straits Times' publication of the findings of a poll on the Punggol East by-election, said the Elections Department yesterday.

The report, published last Thursday, surveyed 50 Punggol East residents on which party they were rooting for in the by-election.

It added that the Opposition may face an uphill battle in winning the constituency, because the People's Action Party supporters outnumbered opposition ones, though a large number remain undecided.

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ST deviously says more Punggol East residents ‘rooting for’ PAP

The Straits Times polled 50 residents in Punggol East and published its results on their paper today (10 Jan) with the heading, “ST poll: More rooting for PAP”.

It said that the opposition “may face an uphill battle in trying to secure control of the ward”.
The poll results are as follows:
  • 19 for PAP (38%)
  • 10 for opposition (20%)
  • 21 undecided (42%)
It wrote, “…those rooting for the People’s Action Party (PAP) outnumbered opposition supporters 19 to 10.”

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Police investigating Straits Times’ Punggol East by-election poll
 
The Jan 10 article in question was titled ‘ST poll: More rooting for PAP’, which is misleading because out of the 50 Punggol residents surveyed, 19 supported PAP vs 10 for Opposition, and the remainder were ‘UNDECIDED’. It seems rather premature to say anything about the Punggol sentiment on the ground from such results, in particular something like ‘the EDGE that the ruling party appears to hold may be a reflection of the incumbency advantage it has always held in a middle-class, traditionally PAP-leaning ward’. No details were given from the article on how the poll was conducted, but it appears that it was done through interviews of random residents. ST Editor Warren Fernandez confirmed my suspicions:
“Our reporters spoke with residents in Punggol East to get their comments and a sense of the ground for our election reports. This was not a full-scale survey, or scientific poll, by any means.
One would question the bias inherent in such straw polls where participants have to respond to a team of ST reporters who’re more than happy to publish your name and your OPINION for the whole country to see. It would be interesting, if it weren’t illegal, to see instead how Punggol residents would vote anonymously, through an online poll rather than having someone from a government-endorsed national paper approach you with a notepad and stuffing an audio recorder in your face. Maybe the 21 people weren’t ‘undecided’. They just didn’t feel comfortable, or afraid even. It’s as scientific as having Ah Long San going around asking what you think of graffiti. But that’s not quite the point is it? Does a straw poll have to be ‘full-scale’ and statistically rigorous before it is considered illegal? Here’s see what the Law says:

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Literary Licence

Thanks to a sharp-eyed netizen, we now know that when the Straits Times (ST) published a report on how they surveyed 50 Punggol East residents to gage which party they will be supporting in the coming by-election - and printed the results of the poll on Thursday - they broke the law. Penalty: A fine not exceeding $1,500 or jail time not exceeding 12 months. Or both.

ST Editor Warren Fernandez, co-author of "Lee Kuan Yew: The Man and His Ideas" and other English literary contributions, tried to define the journalistic exercise as a an effort "to get a sense tof the ground for our election reports". He blamed the headline for "overstating the significance of the information gathered by calling it a poll."

The Free Online Dictionary says that a survey is "A gathering of a sample of data or opinions considered to be representative of a whole." We don't really have to split hairs on this one.

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OPINION: Has Straits Times broken the law with Punggol East poll?
Hardwarezone Forum, 11 Jan 2013




Link

Also read:
Man linked to Temasek Review arrested for conducting election exit poll - Asiaone.com

Related:
Did the Straits Times break the law? - Facebook.com/publichousesg

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Police investigate ST for by-election poll, editor says sorry

The Elections Department said today (13 Jan) that the Police are currently investigating Straits Times for conducting an election poll and publishing its results on its paper one day after the Writ of Election was issued.
The Elections Department issued a brief statement today in response to media queries on the Punggol East By-Election poll published by Straits Times on 10 Jan:
“In response to media queries about the poll on the Punggol East By-Election published in the Straits Times on 10 January 2013, the case is currently being looked into by the Police.”
The Straits Times polled 50 residents in Punggol East and published its results in their paper on 10 Jan with the heading, “ST poll: More rooting for PAP”. The Writ of Election was issued 1 day before, on 9 Jan. It is understood that such polls conducted after a Writ of Election is issued

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An unscientific look at polls

It was interesting that ST is being investigated by the police for contravening elections laws for publishing an election poll. It was more interesting to read what ST did NOT say. If you had read Today, it appears that ST was told off by the police for doing the same thing in 2011, when it polled Aljunied GRC residents. Strange that it didn’t take the warning to heart. Also, the ST report forgot to publish the penalties: for contravening the Parliamentary Elections Act, you are fined up to a max of $1,500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or both.

Now, given ST’s reply, it looks like it’s about to argue that it wasn’t a full-scale survey or a scientific poll. Now what does that mean really? That no one should take ST’s poll too seriously? I can bet that all the headline writers in Singapore are also wondering about the comment that ST made that the headline “overstated the significance’’ of the poll. The headline, by the way, was “ST poll: More rooting for PAP’’. I’m not sure how such a straightforward headline can be misinterpreted – unless it wasn’t MORE people rooting for PAP. Or the word poll should be substituted with some phrase like: Views from the ground. And take out the numbers in the story…

There was another survey I found most interesting: On the profile of those belonging to Christian groups and the views they hold. To put it simply: Those in megachurches are younger, usually first-generation Christians, against abortion and homosexuality and believe greater wealth is an indication of spiritual health (my words). So morally conservative and highly capitalist, compared to those in established churches.

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Did the Straits Times break the law?

[Thanks to Isrizal Mohamed Isa for pointing this out.]

"A STRAITS Times poll of 50 Punggol East residents, after the Writ of Election was issued yesterday, suggests that the opposition may face an uphill battle in trying to secure control of the ward." - Straits Times 10 January 2013.

Parliamentary Elections Act
(CHAPTER 218)

Blackout period for election survey results - 78C.

—(1) No person shall publish or permit or cause to be published the results of any election survey during the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day at the election.