Two men will be charged with criminal defamation over an article published in The Online Citizen (TOC), including the editor of the socio-political website.
In a statement on Wednesday (12 December), the police said they will be charging Xu Yuan Chen, 36, the TOC editor who is better known as Terry Xu, and De Costa Daniel Augustin, 35, on Thursday.
De Costa will also be given an additional charge of unauthorised access to computer material.
On 5 October, the Info-communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA) filed a police report in relation to the article titled “The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook Post”, written by one “Willy Sum” and published on TOC. The article had alleged corruption against some persons.
The police investigated the matter and were granted a warrant to search the houses of Xu and “Willy Sum”.
While searching “Willy Sum”’s house, the police found out that the article was written by De Costa under the name “Willy Sum”. The investigations suggest that De Costa had sent the article to TOC using “Willy Sum”’s email account without the latter’s consent. Xu published the article without verifying the identity of the author.
On the afternoon of 20 November, the police went to the house of De Costa, who was spotted leaving for a flight that was due to take off shortly and searched his premises.
The police also addressed allegations over their actions in the case, including how police had supposedly “over-reached” by seizing laptops, mobile phones and hard drives belonging to those involved.
“This was necessary to secure and preserve evidence. The seizure of the electronic equipment from Xu and De Costa uncovered evidence pointing towards the identity of the true author of the article, in this case, De Costa,” the police said.
The police also responded to a post supposedly written by De Costa’s mother who alleged that the police had “unreasonably prevented” her son from leaving Singapore for an overseas trip. The police said they had to act quickly in order to ascertain the authorship of the article.
Anyone convicted of the offence of criminal defamation faces a jail term of up to two years, or with a fine, or both. For unauthorised access to computer material, a person who is convicted faces a jail term of up to two years, or a fine of up to $5000, or both.