Shanmugam: Courts, not govt, are final arbiters of truth

Shamugam conducts online lesson on government criticism.

Martino Tan | April 3, 2019 @ 12:11 am


Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam made a basic two-minute how-to video on what can be said to criticise the government without getting caught by the provisions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill.

Shanmugam said the following are some of the statements that can be made:

“If you say government is incompetent
If you say government doesn’t know what it’s doing
It’s elitist, cost of living is too high.
Free speech is not allowed in Singapore,
If you say human rights are being curtailed, or if you say protests are not allowed”.

Yup, Shanmugam said all these things and explained that these are Singaporeans’ viewpoints and are not covered by the Bill.


A day after the draft law targeting online falsehoods was introduced on April 1, the law minister shared a post on his Facebook page explaining what the bill actually covers and clarified that the government is not the final arbiter of truth.

This was because Shanmugam said that there had been some misleading commentary on the Bill.

This has generated criticism, with some critics saying the law will allow the government and ministers to be the ultimate decider on truth.

S’pore govt bill to fight online falsehoods met with criticism

Covers false statement of facts

Shanmugam said that the Bill only covers false statement of facts.

Moreover, it must be determined that it is in the public’s interest for the government to take action.

Public interest matters, for instance, will include national security, public health and safety, election outcomes, as well as confidence in public institutions.

This also means that the Bill does not cover criticism, opinions, satire and parody.

Courts decide

Secondly, Shanmugam explained who actually decides on what is true and what is false:

“In the first place, if it is a matter of public interest and if it is false, the government comes in and asks for corrections”.

However, if the person disagrees, Shanmugam said that the person can challenge in court and let the courts decide.

Shanmugam concluded:

“The courts are the ultimate arbiters of truth, as it should be in any situation or any civilised place”.

More about the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill

All your questions about the Deliberate Online Falsehoods bill, answered

About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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