A couple have been arrested for allegedly leaking a joint press release by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) on school closures amid COVID-19 outbreak.
The 37-year-old public servant and her 38-year-old husband were apprehended for committing an offence of wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act, the police revealed in a statement on Sunday (5 April).
It was reported that a version of the press release dated 3 April appeared to have made rounds on WhatsApp and other social media sites, a few hours before Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed the nation on the closure of all schools and learning institutes on Friday (3 April) at 4pm.
In the speech, PM Lee said that all primary, secondary, junior college and Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) students as well as preschools will be closed for a month, adding that schools will transition to fully home-based learning (HBL) until the end of the month.
This measure is part of latest efforts to enhance safe distancing measure and further limit social interactions within the community, said PM Lee. Other measures include closure of non-essential offices and further restrictions on movement.
Even the media received the official press release by the ministries only after PM Lee announced to the public about the school closures.
MOE and MSF told Channel NewsAsia that they are aware of this leaked press release and noted that the police are investigating the matter. “We are aware of the incident. Police investigations are ongoing,” the ministries said on Saturday (4 April).
As for the apparent leaked press statement, it was reported that it seemed to be an earlier version of the press release, which detailed that all schools would shift to full home-based learning for three weeks, starting from 13 April up till 30 April. It also added that all preschools, MOE kindergartens and student care centres would shut its doors for the time being.
However, the official press release stated that schools will be moved to HBL from 8 April to 4 May, and preschools and student care centres will offer limited services for kids whose parents have no choice but to work and cannot secure caregivers.
Based on preliminary investigations, it was found that the female public servant who is an authorised recipient of the press statement had apparently took a screenshot of it and shared it with her husband through WhatsApp on 3 April around 9am.
Her husband then shared the image with some of his friends, and it was made public for the people before the official release of the statement on that day at 4.30pm.
Police investigations on this matter is ongoing.
If the couple are found guilty under the Official Secrets Act, they could face a fine of up to S$2,000 and jail term of up to two years.
The police also warned people that unauthorised recipients should not go ahead and circulate the confidential information that they’ve received, as they could be similar liable under the Official Secrets Act.