Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam activated the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA) on Jan. 22, 2020, the sixth time it has been used, in response to allegations about the execution methods of Singapore prisons.
Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) alleged that Singapore prison officers used "brutal" methods to execute condemned prisoners, including kicking their necks to break them.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said that these allegations are false, and that all judicial executions are carried out in strict compliance with the law.
The POFMA Office issued Correction Directions against:
- Singapore news site The Online Citizen (TOC), for falsehoods on its online article.
- Journalist Kirsten Han, for falsehoods in her Facebook post that shared LFL's statement.
- Yahoo Singapore's Facebook post, for sharing an article that contains the falsehoods.
- LFL's website with its statement, which contains falsehoods.
Yahoo Singapore's response
Yahoo Singapore complied with the Order, adding the notice at the top of its Facebook post, with an appended note.
Kirsten Han's response
Han complied with the Order, adding the notice at the top of her Facebook post, and a note below that.
The Online Citizen's response
TOC added a correction notice to the top of the article on its website, as directed by the order.
However, it applied to Shanmugam for a cancellation of the Correction Direction.
On Jan. 24, MHA announced in a press release that Shanmugam had declined to cancel the Direction, stating that the application "did not disclose any grounds to the contrary."
TOC was notified of the decision.
Also on Jan. 24, TOC announced in a Facebook post that it will make an application to challenge the POFMA order in court.
Lawyers for Liberty's response
LFL refused to comply with the Correction Direction.
It said that as a Malaysian organisation run by Malaysian citizens, it is not subject to Singapore law.
It published a statement calling on the Singapore government to cancel all the Correction Directions it has issued so far for this case.
Lawyers for Liberty sued Shanmugam
LFL also filed suit in Kuala Lumpur against Shanmugam on Jan. 24, seeking a court declaration that the defendant (i.e. Shanmugam) "cannot take any action against us in Malaysia under POFMA."
The Straits Times quoted LFL founder N. Surendran as saying he believed the Correction Direction was:
"...an attempt by Singapore to encroach upon, or to crackdown the freedom of speech in Malaysia and impose its fake news Act on Malaysians."
As LFL has refused to comply with the Correction Direction, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran activated POFMA again on Jan. 23, to issue access-blocking orders against LFL's website.
If they do happen to carry the Correction Notice, Iswaran will cancel the blocking orders.
Top image from TOC's Facebook page and Tammy Cuff via Pixabay.