Loh Chee Kiong, a reporter for TODAY (owned my MediaCorp), has been arrested for importing “The Star”, a Malaysian newspaper. The reporter was nabbed when crossing at Woodlands with several suspicious newspapers stuffed into hand luggage, and “The Star” was subsequently found upon conducting a body cavity search. The tipoff came when Loh wrote an article for TODAY on April 2, 2007 entitled “Envoy pushes for hassle-free Causeway card”. The otherwise innocuous article contained the following incriminating words:
“In an interview which was published yesterday in Malaysian newspaper The Star, Mr Parameswaran called for the Malaysian government to study the possibility of developing a travel card…”
The police were drawn to the words in bold which indicated that the reporter had been illegally importing Malaysian newspapers to gather information. This “gathering information” is where the offence lies in Singapore. The punishment for contravening the Undesirable Publications Act (Chapter 338) is as follows:
6. —(1) Any person who imports, publishes, sells, offers for sale, supplies, offers to supply, exhibits, distributes or reproduces any prohibited publication or any extract therefrom shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years or to both, and for a subsequent offence to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 4 years.
And if Loh attempts to cry “innocent until proven guilty” let clause 3 set the matter straight (shown in bold below)
(2) Any person who without reasonable excuse has in his possession any prohibited publication or any extract therefrom shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction for a first offence to a fine not exceeding $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both, and for a subsequent offence to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.
(3) In any proceedings against any person for an offence under subsection (2), that person shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, to have known the contents and the nature of the contents of any publication immediately after such publication came into his possession.
A strong deterrent is expected from the Singapore courts. K. Bhavani, MICA, commented on the case, stating that all publications must contribute towards nation-building, and that Malaysian newspapers offer only “polemics dressed up as analysis”.