The Ministry of Health (MOH) is the latest to accuse TOC editor, Terry Xu, of making claims that are untrue. In a statement released this morning (7 Oct), MOH said that Mr Xu made false statements in a Facebook post he had published on Saturday (5 Oct).
In his post, Mr Xu wrote about how he believes the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) could be used during a General Election. He claimed that the ruling party could order a takedown on a story during the election “only for the story to be proven correct after the election is won without the voters knowing what actually happened.”
In making this claim, Mr Xu said that an example of this could be something like “the nature of the Hep C cover up prior to the GE2015.”
Debunking the claim that there was a Hepatitis C outbreak cover-up prior to the 2015 General Election, MOH clarified today:
“Terry Xu’s/The Online Citizen’s statement that there was a “Hep C cover up prior to the GE2015” is false. An Independent Review Committee conducted an objective and critical review of the incident and found no evidence of deliberate delays by SGH or MOH in escalating the Hepatitis C outbreak, let alone a cover up.
“Public healthcare professionals and MOH officers carry out their duties professionally with patients’ best interests in mind. The timeline of key events was disclosed by MOH. Questions on the incident were raised in Parliament, to which the Minister for Health provided full responses.”
Yesterday (6 Oct), the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) released a joint statement accusing TOC of publishing falsehoods in the same Facebook post and in an article that was also published on Saturday (5 Oct).
The TOC article suggested that POFMA “could potentially allow a Minister to deem a piece of news as “fake” as a means to silence a critic”. In his Facebook post, Mr Xu also claimed that a minister or an individual appointed to handle an appeal “can sit on his or her ass for two days without doing anything before considering that the appeal is rejected.”
Clarifying that these allegations are false, the two Government ministries said: “Dear The Online Citizen SG, You have published a post by your editor, Mr Terry Xu, and another article by Ghui, on POFMA and GE. Both were published by you on 5 October 2019. The post and article contain falsehoods.”
“For example, they incorrectly assert that Ministers can use POFMA during the elections to restrict and curtail online content.
“The Act states that for the entire election period Ministers cease to exercise their powers under POFMA. Instead, senior civil servants are appointed as the Ministers’ alternate authorities for the election period. The robust safeguards on the use of POFMA will continue to be in place during the elections.
“It is disingenuous to talk about the need for voters to know “what actually happened”, while suggesting that falsehoods should be allowed to go unaddressed during an election period.”
Terry Xu is presently facing a defamation lawsuit brought on by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over another article and Facebook post that allegedly contains falsehoods.
PM Lee’s lawyers have said that the TOC article – which repeats allegations Lee Wei Ling made in 2017 – were “false and baseless” and that PM Lee “has been gravely injured in his character and reputation, and has been brought into public scandal, odium and contempt” due to the misleading article and Facebook post.
The Prime Minister is claiming damages, an injunction to restrain Mr Xu from publishing or disseminating the allegations, and costs. A pre-trial conference is scheduled to take place next month, on 15 October at 9.30am.