SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has invoked Singapore’s fake news law in response to comments on Twitter by activist Jolovan Wham that misrepresented what Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam had said on the rule of law in Parliament on Monday (Oct 4).
MHA has asked the Pofma Office, which administers the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, to issue a correction direction to Mr Wham for his Twitter post published on Wednesday.
This, the ministry said in a statement on Friday, was because “the tweet communicates the falsehood that the Minister for Home Affairs adopts the view that the rule of law does not operate anywhere in the real world, including in Singapore”.
Mr Wham had written: “Rule of law is a concept for lawyers, but it doesn’t operate in the real world,” K. Shanmugam, Law Minister.”
He will now have to publish a correction notice on his online platform, MHA added.
Mr Wham was one of nine entities who had received letters from the MHA on Thursday asking them to correct false statements and apologise for misquoting Mr Shanmugam.
These misrepresentations were also published by news website Mothership in an article on Wednesday.
As at Friday, all of them besides Mr Wham have corrected and/or apologised for their posts.
They are: activists Andrew Loh, Kirsten Han, Martyn See, Julie O’Connor, Kokila Annamalai and Lynn Lee, Peoples Voice chief Lim Tean and Facebook page Wake Up Singapore.
Mothership has also published an editor’s note to clarify and correct the misrepresentation.
The posts in question had completely misstated what Mr Shanmugam had said at the debate on the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act, or Fica, MHA said.
“The Minister had repeatedly affirmed, in Parliament, the importance of the rule of law for Singapore and the Government’s strong and continued commitment to the rule of law,” the ministry said on Friday.
“He had said there are some countries around the world where the rule of law is a concept for lawyers, but does not operate in the real world, and their societies live in utter misery. He used this as a contrast to how the rule of law is applied in Singapore.”
Mr Shanmugam’s comments came near the end of the 10-hour long debate where he was responding to MPs’ remarks on the role of the judiciary in overseeing Fica.
The minister said he agreed that while executive powers must be subject to checks and balances, the questions are in what form and what are the appropriate and best solutions for Singapore’s context.
He added that Fica offered a more calibrated approach for the Internet age.
Parliament approved Fica on Monday, three years after it was first raised and three weeks after the extensive, hotly debated legislation was tabled.
The debate saw MPs surface criticisms and concerns raised by lawyers, experts and activists, including over the law’s broad language and lack of judicial oversight.
All 11 opposition MPs present voted against it, while two Nominated MPs abstained.
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