Singaporean Malay woman says stat board fell short in apology over stolen wedding photo

Photos from the Hari Raya Aidilfitri event at Jalan Bukit Merah. Photo: Sarah Bagharib/Instagram
Photos from the Hari Raya Aidilfitri event at Jalan Bukit Merah. Photo: Sarah Bagharib/Instagram

A Singaporean woman hit back at a statutory board’s apology for blowing up her wedding photo for an event without her consent last month that she deemed a “caricature” of Malay people.

Sarah Bagharib, 30, responded to an apology from the People’s Association yesterday by accusing it of violating her privacy and deflecting blame in its response to her complaints about her wedding photo being used without her knowledge as a standee at a public event in Jalan Bukit Merah.

“I acknowledge and appreciate your public apology. However, there are glaring gaps that indicate a very superficial understanding of the gravity of the issue. While this is indeed an infringement of my personal data protection privacy and my inherent Intellectual Property rights relating to my and my husband’s photograph, there is a larger issue affecting the wider Malay/Muslim community,” she wrote yesterday.

Bagharib had complained Friday that using their traditional Malay wedding for a Hari Raya Aidilfitri event at Tiong Bahru Orchid estate “reflects the superficial understanding of Malay/Singaporean Muslim culture” and was “inappropriate” given it was for an unrelated cultural event. Using my wedding photo as a caricature of Malay people is unacceptable,” she added.

The association, which hosted the event, apologized Saturday. It blamed its event manager, Warabi Enterprise, for finding the photo online and using it without permission. It used it to erect a cardboard cutout of the couple, in full marital garb, on a stage. Their faces were cut out for people to pose for photos. The standee has since been removed. 

The association said it took responsibility and regretted the “inappropriate” use of the photo for a Hari Raya event.

Bagharib yesterday called out the association’s “hastiness” for name-dropping Warabi and said it “reads like an attempt to distance and deflect blame” from them. She demanded for more clarification.

“With the latter issue, your correspondences with me failed to indicate concrete and sincere effort that you and your organisation will take in order to correct the processes that allowed for this display of cultural ignorance,” she wrote.


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Warabi Enterprise, which arranges weddings, religious and sporting events, declined to comment this morning.   

Bagharib insisted the association detail its “next steps” to make good on its statement and questioned whether it had the needed diversity to be culturally competent.

“Is it possible that the lack of cultural and ethnic diversity within your leadership team – group directors, directors and deputy directors – has trickled down to the rest of the organisation and perhaps, resulted in the lapses that caused this incident?” 

Ryan Su, an intellectual property attorney at Osborne Clarke, told Coconuts that Bagharib could be entitled to compensation under Section 30 of the Copyright Act if she had commissioned the photo and did not grant consent as she says.

“Ms. Bagharib is probably right. The core of Singapore’s data protection regulations centre around consent. The question here is if Ms. Bagharib had indeed given consent for her photograph to be used as a prop,” he wrote.

Update: This story has been updated with comments from attorney Ryan Su.

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