IMDA issues 'stern reminder' over E-Pay 'brownface' ad

PHOTO: Screenshot from Twitter

SINGAPORE — While the controversial E-Pay ‘brownface’ ad did not breach the Internet Code of Practice, it was done in “poor taste” and caused offence to minority communities, said the Info-communications Media Development Authority(IMDA) on Wednesday (14 August).

In a statement, the agency said that it had completed its assessment of the ad, featuring popular television and radio personality Dennis Chew. Chew was depicted as four different characters, including an Indian man with artificially darkened skin and a Malay woman wearing a headscarf.

“IMDA has thus issued a stern reminder to the parties involved in the Ad on the importance of paying attention to racial and religious sensitivities,” said an IMDA spokesperson.

“IMDA expects all advertising companies and other content producers to be similarly mindful of these sensitivities. IMDA will not hesitate to take action against any content that is found to be in breach of our Codes of Practice and guidelines.”

Singapore’s advertising authority said on 1 August that while the advertisement was “in poor taste”, it did not breach its code of practice.

The council of the Advertising Standards Authority of Singapore (ASAS) felt that the advertisement was not done “with harm in mind or to deliberately put down any ethnic groups”, said its chairman Professor Ang Peng Hwa, adding that ASAS has received two feedback about the matter.

Separately, a two-year conditional warning has been issued to social media personality Preeti Nair and her brother Subhas over a controversial rap video the duo released online last month.

The video, a response to the E-Pay ad, was peppered with expletives and vulgar gestures directed at Chinese.

With regard to the E-Pay advertisement, the police said that while reports had been made over it, the Attorney-General’s Chambers had advised that no criminal offence had been committed. “The Police will take no further action in relation to the advertisement,” the statement said.

Those who receive conditional warnings from the police are liable to be charged for the original offence should they breach the specified conditions. After the end of a condition period, the accused parties will no longer be subject to prosecution for the original offence.

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COMMENT: Let's learn to deal with minor racial squabbles on our own