POFMA activated over posts by Kirsten Han, The Online Citizen Asia & M Ravi about death penalty case

Andrew Loh, former TOC editor, was also issued with a POFMA correction direction.

Matthias Ang | May 20, 2023, 12:17 PM

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Correction Directions have been issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) against activist Kirsten Han, lawyer M Ravi, The Online Citizen Asia (TOCA), Transformative Justice Collective and Andrew Loh, who is an ex-editor of The Online Citizen (TOC).

According to a press release by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the directions were issued by the POFMA office, at the instruction of Communications and Information Minister and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo, over false statements of fact that the five parties had put up pertaining to the execution of Tangaraju s/o Suppiah.

He was hanged on Apr. 26 after being convicted of abetting the trafficking of 1,017.9g of cannabis sometime between Sep. 6 and 7, 2013.

This amount was more than two times above the 500g threshold that called for the mandatory death penalty, based on the Misuse of Drugs Act.

MHA: False statements were made on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and in an article

MHA highlighted that false statements had been made by Han on Facebook posts published between Apr. 19 and Apr. 22, in an article published on her website, We, The Citizens, on Apr. 19, and on Twitter on Apr. 19.

As for M Ravi, the directions were issued for two Facebook posts he had published, one on Apr. 20 and another on Apr. 27.

In the case of TOCA, it had published an article on its website on Apr. 28. MHA also referred to posts TOCA had put up on the same day on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

As for Transformative Justice Collective and Loh, MHA highlighted Facebook posts that they had published on Apr. 23 and Apr. 24 respectively.

According to the ministry, the following false statements of fact were made by these parties:

  • Tangaraju had requested an interpreter during the recording of his statement but was denied one.
  • He neither had an interpreter nor access to legal counsel during his trial.
  • It was never pointed out to Tangaraju that Steven Chong JCA (Justice of the Court of Appeal, Singapore's apex court) was the Attorney- General when decisions were taken by the Attorney-General’s Chambers in respect of Tangaraju’s case. The courts did not ascertain whether Tangaraju had any objection to Chong hearing matters relating to Tangaraju’s case.
  • Tangaraju was convicted, and sentenced to hang, and later found to be not guilty.
  • Several personal costs orders were made against Ravi without justifiable basis, to penalise him for his work in death penalty cases.

 What are the facts of the case?

MHA highlighted that Tangaraju’s allegation that he requested for but was denied an interpreter during the recording of his statement is false, and was rejected by the High Court.

The High Court had found this allegation, which was raised for the first time during Tangaraju’s cross-examination, to be disingenuous as he admitted that he had made no such request for any of the other statements subsequently recorded from him.

The ministry further pointed out that Tangaraju was accorded full due process under the law with legal representation and access to an interpreter throughout his trial.

In addition, Tangaraju's then counsel was informed, before the appeal was heard, that Chong was the Attorney-General when decisions were taken in respect of his case.

Chong was not, however, involved in the decision-making process, and Tangaraju’s counsel was informed of this as well.

Tangaraju’s counsel then replied to confirm that Tangaraju had no objections to Chong being a member of the coram for the Court of Appeal, to hear his appeal.

Tangaraju’s conviction by the High Court was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

His conviction has not been overturned, the ministry added.

Costs orders were also made against Ravi for justifiable reasons and in accordance with the law, as can be found in the court judgments, which are publicly available, MHA said.

According to the ministry, some of these costs orders were made in respect of Ravi filing "unmeritorious applications" to the courts, which were found to be abuses of the court process.

MHA further stated:

"Despite the government’s clarifications and the courts’ clear findings on Tangaraju’s case, Han, TJC, M Ravi, Loh and TOCA have persisted in making false statements of fact. These false statements may affect public trust and confidence in the government and the judiciary."

Top left screenshot via Gov.sg YouTube videos, central image screenshot from The Online Citizen video/ right image via The Online Citizen/FB