This morning I saw a post on Facebook of a Singapore citizen emailing the Attorney General to investigate The Straits Times on contravening Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218) with an article headlined "ST Poll: More rooting for PAP". I thought I post about it later in the evening, only to have heard that the police are currently looking into the complaint.
A concerned citizen by the name of Brendan Chong emailed the Attorney General Chambers about his concern over the article. Brendan compared the incident with that when the Act was enforced on Joseph Ong Chor Teck for conducting a general election exit poll on the TRE website.
It was soon announced in the evening that the police are looking into the matter.
Wrote Yahoo News,
"The Elections Department (ELD) has confirmed police are probing 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."
The editor for The Straits Times, Warren Ferendez, explained in The Straits Times that the reporters didn't actually conduct a poll, but more of a informal consolidation based on comments made from interviews with residents of Punggol.
Said Warren Ferendez, "" "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."
The Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218) was enacted that polls are not published during this period of time as to have influence on voters who could be possibly be still seating on the fence. Polls could swing the votes two ways where it could influence the voters from either going with the herd or against it.
If the journalists Elgin Toh, Lim Yi Han and Chia Yan Min, took the numbers from comments with residents, and highlighted it as a poll of 50 Punggol East residents, isn't the comments indicating that the journalists knew it wasn't a poll but choose to describe it as one?
Isn't publishing a "false" poll more dangerous than a real poll?
Also, with the statement, was this the first time that lapse occurred where the headlines were "overstated"? Were there other lapses before of headlines being overstated? Were previous ST polls also "overstated"?
What is being done to ensure such headlines are no longer "overstated"?
In June 2012, mrbrown wrote, "Ms Samantha Ann Francis, a STOMP content producer (STOMP is the "citizen journalism" site of SPH) was fired for posting a photo of an MRT train running with one set of its doors open, which was found to be false."