The Online Citizen (TOC) and its staff seem to have found themselves in a nasty slew of legal problems ever since the website was taken down on 16 September 2021.
Just a few weeks ago, the Chief Editor of TOC, Terry Xu, was jailed for criminal defamation.
Perhaps in the process of digging up the legal dirt against TOC, for the defamatory articles it has published and its failure repeated failure to meet its legal obligation of declaring all sources of funding to the Infocomm and Media Development (IMDA), the dealings with its staff were incidentally revealed.
Apparently, TOC had hired a Briton who had a history of working freelance in Singapore without a valid work pass.
Meet Calum Arthur Alistair Stuart
On Tuesday (17 May), the 36-year-old Briton was fined $6,500 after being convicted of working as a freelance producer between November 2015 and July 2016 without a valid work pass.
Stuart pleaded guilty to one count of working for the news agency Thomson Reuters, which has been rebranded as Refinitiv Asia, while he was a long-term visit pass holder.
A long-term visit pass holder is only permitted to work in Singapore if he has a work pass or a letter of consent issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
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For employing Stuart despite knowing that he didn’t have a valid work pass, Refinitiv Asia was also fined $5,500.
His second charge pertaining to him working as a freelance writer for Yahoo! Singapore’s news website between June and August 2015 was also taken into consideration for his final sentencing.
You know what they say, never trust a man with two first names, and Stuart has three.
Stuart’s Time with Refinitiv Asia
During the court hearings, it was revealed that Stuart married Singaporean activist and journalist Kirsten Han in 2014.
Shortly thereafter, he was issued a short-term pass, then a long-term pass between November 2015 and March 2019.
In August 2015, Refinitiv reached out to Stuart and offered him a job as an assistant producer for a year, with an attached salary of $4,500 a month. His job would require him to help with video production.
He accepted the offer, but he didn’t sign the contract.
Refinitiv Asia first applied for an employment pass on his behalf the same month, but it was rejected by MOM in September.
Following this, the news agency applied for a letter of consent instead, but MOM also rejected it in December 2015.
While waiting for the official channels to approve the letter of consent, Refinitiv Asia offered him freelance television and video production work, for the same monthly salary of $4,500.
He worked for Refinitiv for more than six months, starting from 25 November 2016 to 8 July 2016, and was paid a total of $30,375 for the services rendered.
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Stuart’s Stint with Yahoo! News Singapore
Afterwards, Stuart was introduced to Yahoo! News Singapore’s news website through Muhammad Firdianshah Salimat.
The 30-year-old was fined $4,000 for abetting the foreigner in acquiring the job.
The accused worked as a freelance writer for the news website, where he was paid $100 for each article published.
In order to get this job, Stuart contacted Firdianshah, who helped online publications connect with freelance writers, like an agent of sorts.
While negotiating, Stuart informed Firdianshah that he didn’t have a valid work pass, but the latter decided to offer him the job anyway.
Hence, Stuart signed the employment agreement on 27 June 2015, which stipulated that he had to provide three to five pieces of original writing every weekday to Firdianshah, who would vet and edit the pieces before submitting them to Yahoo! Singapore.
Since Firdianshah was his middleman, he received a portion of the cut.
Between June and August 2015, Stuart earned $700 for writing seven articles, while Firdianshah received $350.
For each count of working in Singapore without a valid work pass or letter of consent, Stuart could have been fined up to $20,000 and faced a maximum jail term of two years.
All things considered, the parties involved got off rather lightly.
For Stuart, at least his redeeming factor might have been how he was honest to his employers about not having a valid work pass.
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