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Indian student matter: Greens MP demands apology and review of SA Police’s social media policy

Mr Singh's picture is blurred to protect his privacy; Tammy Franks MLC, Greens Member of SA's State Parliament's Upper House. Source: Supplied

South Australian Greens MP Tammy Franks is seeking an apology from SA police after they published images of an Indian international student in relation to a deception matter. Mr Singh has maintained his ‘innocence and ignorance’ in this case that remains under investigation, but claims the publication of his images has ‘ruined his life’.

Greens Upper House Member, Tammy Franks MLC, has questioned SAPOL’s social media policy while mentioning a report by SBS Punjabi in the South Australian Parliament.

As reported earlier, a 19-year old Adelaide-based Indian international student who chooses to be known as ‘Mr Singh’ has raised concerns about being subjected to ‘hate and derogatory remarks’ after police published his images in relation to a deception matter.

Ms Franks said she raised this matter during Question Time in the state parliament last week when a constituent drew her attention to the SBS Punjabi story about the young student.


Highlights:

  • Greens MP raises Mr Singh’s matter in SA parliament, questioning Police’s media policy
  • South Australia Police had shared his photo on Facebook in relation to a deception case
  • The Indian international student claims innocence saying he was only delivering goods
  • Mr Singh arrived in Australia in December 2019 on a student visa from India

Greens Upper House Member, Tammy Franks MLC raised this matter during Question Time in the state parliament.
Greens Upper House Member, Tammy Franks MLC raised this matter during Question Time in the state parliament.
Supplied

Ms Franks who criticised police approach and their social media policy in this matter made the following statement:

“I find it extraordinary that the SAPOL social media sites would not correct the assumption that a person thought to be a suspect was no longer sought for questioning and that comments which racially vilified a person would be allowed to be posted at all,” she said.

“SAPOL social media is an effective tool to address crime, but if it is also able to be a platform for prejudice and hate by an editorial policy that does not monitor community comments as it publishes them, then that does not create a safer community. SAPOL should assess its editorial approach given it has placed this young man in a position of distress and derision.” 

Ms Franks said it was a matter of concern that the SAPOL social media account only deletes or amends incorrect information rather than make statements of clarification.

I do think an apology should be made to Mr Singh. I also call for a review of their [SAPOL’s] social media protocols that allow racist comments to be made and deletes them well after the damage is done.

“Many international students have been placed in a terrible position as a result of the pandemic. To then punish someone caught up in a crime who was just trying to make a living in this distressful time with public ridicule, is quite cruel.” 

SA ciculated these images of Mr Singh which have been blurred by SBS Punjabi to protect his privacy.
SA ciculated these images of Mr Singh which have been blurred by SBS Punjabi to protect his privacy.
SA Police

While making her speech in the parliament, Ms Franks said, “I understand from the same SBS article that the following day SAPOL took down the media release and Facebook post but not before a number of comments on that Facebook post had to be deleted by SAPOL due to breaches of their standards. Those standards include incredibly large amounts of racist remarks.”

Through her parliament address, she has sought the following responses from Vincent Tarzia, the Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services:

1. Why does the SAPOL social media account only delete or amend incorrect information rather than make statements of clarification?

2. What are the protocols for correcting public prejudices when SAPOL publishes images of a suspect who turns out not to have committed a crime?

3. What is the SAPOL social media policy with regard to racist and derogatory comments, and why does it not have measures to edit out incitements to hate before publication rather than a process that deletes them after they have already been published?

SBS Punjabi has contacted SA police for an update. 

A screenshot of media release that was later removed by SA Police
A screenshot of media release that was later removed by SA Police
Supplied

In an earlier communication, the police told SBS Punjabi that the matter is still pending investigation and ‘no further information will be provided’ at this stage.

Mr Singh who is eager to see his name cleared, wants SA Police to investigate this matter on a priority basis.

“I want them to speed up this investigation. They haven’t contacted me ever since I gave them statements and the proof of my innocence and ignorance in this matter,” said Mr Singh.

“I am desperate to see my name struck off from their criminal database. At least, they can make a public statement that I have nothing to do with this deception case. I am eager to see if they would help me to reinstate my dignity and pride within the community and beyond.”

Mr Singh had earlier said that the ‘police action’ has ruined his life.

“This news has gone viral within our Sikh and Indian-Australian community. While the police have removed the post, it is still impacting on me and my life. Many people have shared screenshots of the post on social media and WhatsApp,” he had said. 

Mr Singh has supplied SBS Punjabi over 30 screenshots of his communication with his ‘fraudulent’ job provider
Mr Singh has supplied SBS Punjabi over 30 screenshots of his communication with his ‘fraudulent’ job provider
Supplied

Mr Singh claims he was hired by the man on Gumtree to collect and dispatch parcels.    

Meanwhile, a spokesperson from Gumtree told SBS Punjabi that they are committed to ensure that the ‘advertised work is genuine and respectful of worker’s rights’.

“As a community marketplace, it is important to us that users have a safe, successful and positive experience. We strongly recommend all employers and workers using the platform to do their due diligence before considering potential job opportunities. More information about our jobs policies is available on the Gumtree help section,” she said in a statement.

“We work on a report and take-down process and encourage users to report any suspicious job listings believed to be unlawful via the ‘Report Ad’ function, so that we can help keep the community safe for everyone.”

Click on the player above to listen to the full audio report. 

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