SDP plans to challenge POFMA Correction Directions against its posts on PMET unemployment

The SDP said multiple reports said the same thing.

Sulaiman Daud | December 15, 2019, 05:35 PM

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) on Sunday (Dec. 15) disputed the Correction Directions issued by the Ministry of Manpower against their social media posts and an article, invoked under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA).

The opposition party also said, in an update to its original post, that it plans to apply to cancel the correction directions issued against them.

SDP's initial posts and article said that local PMET employment in Singapore had dropped.

In response, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) cited its Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, and stated that local PMET employment has risen steadily since 2015.

SDP explained what led them to make the initial claim

But in a Facebook post signed off by SDP vice-chairman John Tan on Dec. 15, the SDP cited the sources that led them to make their original claim.

MOM issued a Correction Notice against a June 8 article on the SDP's website, specifically the line: "The SDP's proposal comes amidst a rising proportion of Singapore PMETs getting retrenched."

However, the SDP said the statement they made was based off a Straits Times (ST) report titled “PMETs make up rising share of retrenched locals", published on March 15 this year.

SDP took information from Straits Times article

ST's article said that PMETs made up 76 per cent or three in four of the Singaporeans and permanent residents retrenched in 2018, the highest figure in "at least a decade".

The article also included an infographic with the header "PMETs make up growing share of locals laid off".

The SDP said it had no reason to believe that ST would publish "fake news", and suggested that MOM should take up the matter with the paper.

The SDP added that they would be happy to amend their statement if ST states that its information, or its interpretation thereof, was incorrect.

It also cited a Yahoo News article on Oct. 3, titled "PMET unemployment in Singapore continues to climb".

It quoted DBS Senior Economist Irvin Seah as saying that "PMETs continue to form a much larger share of retrenched workers compared to their proportion in the workforce".

Correction Directions against Facebook posts

Correction Directions were also issued against SDP's Nov. 30 and Dec. 2 Facebook posts.

To support its statement in its Nov. 30 post that "local PMET unemployment has increased", the SDP cited a June 13 article by Business Insider, as well as "similar reports" from ST and Today.

The Business Insider article reported that Q1 2019 retrenchment was up from the previous quarter, and "most of those" who were retrenched were PMETs. It cited an MOM Labour Market report released on June 13.

The SDP again cited the Oct. 3 Yahoo News article, which said: "...the number of PMETs who lost their jobs increased from 1,440 to 1,680, making them the bulk of those retrenched."

Defended Facebook infographic

The SDP added that the infographic on its Dec. 2 Facebook post, which stated that "Local PMET employment has decreased", was similarly based on the reported information.

It added that "low re-entry numbers" suggest that the absolute numbers of unemployed and underemployed PMETs would have increased.

The SDP also disputed MOM's assertion that local PMET employment has risen in 2019, as the year has not yet ended.

You can see the SDP's post in full below:

SDP complied with Correction Notices

Despite their disagreement, the SDP complied with the Correction Direction against the Nov. 30 Facebook post.

As of 4:30 pm, the Nov. 30 post contains the Correction Notice at the top as required under POFMA. You can see it below:

However, the post includes another note to the top note, saying: "Under POFMA, we have to comply with the order but we will be applying to cancel the Correction Directions."

The other Facebook post of Dec. 2 and the website article also contains includes Correction Notices, both with similar caveats.

They posted another follow-up Facebook post stating their intention to appeal against the correction directions:
POFMA allows appeals to be made in court against Correction Directions, if the Minister refuses the application to cancel the Direction.

First use of POFMA against posts made by a political party

This latest POFMA invocation by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo is the first to be used against posts made by a Singaporean political party.

Previously, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat invoked POFMA against a post made by Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer.

However, that post was on Bowyer’s personal Facebook page. He complied with the correction notice.

The Home Affairs Minister later invoked POFMA against a Facebook post on the States Times Review.

When its editor, Alex Tan, refused to comply, POFMA was then invoked against Facebook itself.

Past uses of POFMA since it kicked in:

Top image from SDP and MOM's Facebook pages.