Kirsten Han, an activist and Editor-in-Chief of New Naratif was interviewed on Malaysian TV programme ‘Consider This’, on Astro Awani, regarding her views on the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).
Kirsten started off by saying that the amount of state overreach within the bill was her main concern. She added that the definitions and scope of POFMA were also very broad and subject to interpretation.
When asked about the situation of the media locally, she said, “So Singapore’s media landscape, the mainstream media which usually refers to traditional media – TV, radio, newspapers – is largely owned by two companies which are ostensibly private companies but do have government influence intruding into it. So MediaCorp which is the broadcasting (sic) does more of the TV and radio is actually owned by one of the sovereign wealth funds”. She also went on to say that she knew of a lot of self-censorship in newsrooms of the mainstream media in Singapore.
When asked whether POFMA was truly a tool to remove any sort of criticism of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), Han answered that it was one of the suspicions she has of the new law.
Han added that the POFMA was an “extremely blunt tool”, and that it was a “big weapon to have”, with a very large overreach.
“It’s an extremely blunt tool, and it has so much overreach. It’s such a big weapon to have, when it wasn’t entirely clear how severe Singapore’s problem with fake news was,” she explained.
She also said that the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods had repeatedly cited examples of fake news from other countries, such as Myanmar, Germany, and the United States, but not many examples from Singapore itself:
“This is because we haven’t seen huge coordinated misinformation and disinformation campaigns in that way,” Han added.
Last year, Kirsten Han was part of a group led by Dr Thum and dissident Tan Wah Piow who met with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad on August 30. The group invited Dr. Mahathir as a guest speaker at a conference on democracy. The group received widespread criticism for inviting a foreign politician to comment on Singapore’s politics. Dr. Thum has been criticized specifically by Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who characterized Dr. Thum’s doings as “a little sad, a bit regretful.” Mr. Shanmugam also said that a foreign politician should never be invited to intervene in our domestic politics, calling this “an absolute no-no.” /TISG