The Online Citizen involved in case of criminal defamation; cops seize chief editor’s electronic devices

The Online Citizen front page.
The Online Citizen front page.

The Singapore Police Force is currently investigating an alleged offense of criminal defamation involving one of the nation’s longest-running socio-political websites The Online Citizen and its chief editor Terry Xu.

The site — renowned for its anti-establishment position — will be on hiatus for now. According to a Facebook post earlier today, five police officers came by to Xu’s house in the morning to seize his desktop, mobile devices, and laptops. All electronic equipment used for the purpose of the website have been confiscated with no confirmed date of return.

Unclear as well is the exact reason why TOC is under investigations. The only thing that was noted was that it involved an alleged offense of criminal defamation under Section 21 (1) of Chapter 68 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The section simply describes that someone acquainted with any facts and circumstances of a case is required to assist with police investigations.

AGC website screengrab
AGC website screengrab

Having garnered a mass of local fans and readers since it was founded by Andrew Loh in 2006, this wouldn’t be the first time the online publication landed in the crosshairs of the authorities. Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam accused TOC of conducting an “orchestrated campaign” against the authorities in 2016, during the period of time when the tragic suicide of 14-year-old Benjamin Lim became a national discussion. After that incident, members of TOC’s editorial team departed, leaving Xu to run the show solo.

The year before that saw TOC being issued with take-down notices for its published pieces, including a letter written by the lawyer of refugee-blogger Amos Yee, as well as features covering a patent rights case involving the Ministry of Defence.

Still alive

Though readers may not be seeing new content being put out by TOC for now, the site itself remains live. It remains unclear which (if any) TOC piece is being accused of criminal defamation, but of late, Xu and his contributors have been focusing heavily on the contentious issue surrounding hawker centers run by social enterprises here.


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