A Singaporean court handed a civil servant a four-week jail sentence on Tuesday for leaking information about the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions.
Such leaks rarely happen in the city-state, where the government keeps a tight hold on sensitive information, and the civil service is highly regarded.
But the case is among a few instances during the pandemic where civil servants leaked information related to Covid-19 to their family or acquaintances before it was made public.
Chua Wee Lin, a 52-year-old who was a deputy director at the National Library Board at the time, leaked information about the planned relaxation of measures to 18 others in a WhatsApp group four days before the government announced the plans in June 2020.
After attending a meeting where the information was shared, he sent messages detailing the dates that country clubs, cinemas and restaurants would be allowed to reopen after Singapore’s partial lockdown, according to court documents.
Some of the members forwarded the information to their friends and family, and one of the messages went viral, eventually reaching staff at a different government ministry, who made a police report.
The leak forced the government agencies involved to redirect resources to find the source, court documents said.
“This was extremely time consuming given the viral nature of the information spread, and this had to be done concurrently with their attempts to fight the pandemic,” prosecutors said.
Chua was handed a four-week jail sentence after pleading guilty to wrongful communication of information under the Official Secrets Act.
The maximum punishment for the offence is a fine of S$2,000 (US$1,455) and two years’ imprisonment.
Earlier this year, a woman was jailed for 18 weeks for leaking Covid-19 case numbers while she worked for the health ministry, while another civil servant faces similar charges over leaking information on school closures to her husband, according to local media.