NGO Human Rights Watch slams S'pore's Select Committee hearings as theatrics

HRW said 'it is clearly an effort to discredit critics'.

Belmont Lay | March 31, 2018, 02:59 PM

Human Rights Watch issued a statement on Friday, March 30, 2018, rebuffing the invitation extended by the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods to send a representative to Singapore to give oral testimony.

This is the full statement by HRW:

"When first contacted by the parliamentary committee, we offered to rearrange our schedule to have the relevant staff member appear in person, but the committee did not respond with a workable date until it was too late to do so. The committee’s actions since, however, have made it clear that this is not a serious and good faith effort to discuss the findings of our December 2017 report or to get our input into dealing with online falsehoods in a manner consistent with international law.

Instead, it is clearly an effort to discredit critics of Singapore’s repressive policies and practices related to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. It is hard to see how we can have a fruitful discussion of the report and related issues when committee members and the Ministry of Law have already issued distorted and misleading comments. We have therefore reluctantly come to the conclusion that these hearings are not a true consultation on how best to deal with “fake news,” but a media event aimed to showcase those who agree with the government’s views and criticise those who do not.

We repeat our request that the government respond to our October 2017 letters to the Prime Minister and other ministers requesting comments on our research findings.

If the committee or government has any questions about our report, they should raise them with us directly in writing. If the committee or government genuinely wants our input on the proposed “fake news” law, they should make the draft available to us a reasonable time – such as two weeks – before it is tabled in parliament. Human Rights Watch would then be pleased to share our comments on the draft based on international human rights standards."



HRW was accused of being non-transparent and spreading falsehoods to change Singapore:

This occurred on March 23, after the select committee heard serious criticisms made against it by PAP Policy Forum (PPF) during the public hearing.

In response, HRW rebutted the criticisms as emanating from the Singapore government, and characterised them as "ironic and absurd":