TOC resumes operations as police investigation into alleged criminal defamation case goes on

There's still a chance the chief editor could be arrested and charged however.

Matthias Ang | November 26, 2018, 06:58 PM

Local sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC)'s chief editor Terry Xu announced on Monday that his site will resume operations again while an investigation by the police into a case of criminal defamation continues.

In an article announcing his decision to start work again, Xu said he was able to purchase new equipment with the help of several readers and members of the public.

All of his publishing tools were confiscated when he was called in for questioning by the police, and has not yet been returned to him.

Xu also acknowledged "a number of kind hearted individuals" who joined his long-standing Patreon campaign and also took on paid subscriptions to TOC's website.

Accordingly, TOC's website has begun publishing additional articles since putting up Xu's initial piece.

Xu also said he would be opening a new fundraising campaign to expand the TOC team, partly in anticipation of the next general election as well as in the event Xu is arrested and jailed.

Questioned for eight hours

TOC also put up another post elaborating on the events that occurred on Nov. 20. It said the following items owned by Xu were confiscated:

  • Two desktop computers
  • Two mobile phones
  • Three laptops
  • Two tablets
  • Three hard disks
  • Other storage devices

According to the post, Xu was brought in for eight hours of questioning at Police Cantonment Complex, only releasing him at 11:30pm that day.

The post called Willy Sum an "irregular contributor" and elaborated that his article had first captured the attention of the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Sept. 18, whereby they issued a takedown order to TOC regarding Sum's article under Section 16(1) of the Broadcasting Act.

A police report was then lodged by the IMDA on Oct. 4.

The post adds that TOC complied with the order which further stipulated for the article to be removed within six hours of receiving the notice.

A response by Xu to IMDA on TOC's editorial discretion was also included in the post, whereby Xu maintained that Sum's article was essentially a letter carrying his personal opinion that the government was supposedly corrupt.

Xu then stated:

"As for tampering with the constitution, any amendment to the constitution can be seen as tampering. Such as the changes to the Elected Presidency for a particular agenda, particularly when it goes against public opinion."

What's more, in terms of editorial practices:

"We only do spelling edits. If there are any allegations which involve undisclosed facts or claims, we will check with the authorities or individual involved. Or if the whole article is problematic, as in subject topic being borderline illegal or illegal, such as contempt of court, criminal defamation and etc, we will not publish the article unless we can seek further information with the author using the given contact number or email."

The post also alleged that, "The government has said on many occasions that citizens can criticise the government in response to the lack of media freedom."

Here is the post in full from Nov. 21:

TOC currently gets S$1,413 monthly from Patreon

Currently, the Patreon page for TOC shows that the site is receiving S$1,413 per month, with 67 patrons in total.

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

And out of these 67 patrons, 49 patrons are monthly donators, with 24 of them donating S$1 monthly, 20 of them donating S$4.50 monthly via subscription of TOC's weekly newspaper, and five of them donating S$100 monthly.

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

While the amount of S$1,413 is more than enough to meet the required annual fees of hosting the website's server, it is short of TOC's next target of S$4,000 which would allow it to hire writers and pay freelance writers.

Xu's targets go as high as S$8,000 and S$11,000, promising various features including live streams and investigative features.

Here's the list of TOC's funding goals in full:

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

Source: Screenshot via Patreon

It is not yet clear if or how the upcoming fundraising campaign mentioned in Xu's article will be related to his Patreon and subscription programme.

Author brought in for questioning

In the meantime, it appears that Sum has been brought in for questioning by the police.

On Monday afternoon, activist Kirsten Han said in a Facebook post that Sum returned to Cantonment complex for "part 2" of police questioning.

She said Sum was summoned and "interrogated" from 11am Monday.

[Editor's note: The sequence of timeline is edited for accuracy following a reader's feedback.]

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Top image collage from Terry Xu Facebook and The Online Citizen