Singapore—An application to Josephine Teo, the country’s Minister for Manpower from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for the cancellation of three correction directives it had been issued has been denied.
The application had been filed on Friday (Jan 3).
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released a press statement on Monday (Jan 6) announcing that SDP’s application for the correction orders, which had been issued under POFMA, Singapore’s law created to combat fake news, had been declined.
The press statement read, “MOM received the SDP’s application to cancel the CDs (the “Application”) on 3 January 2020. After careful consideration, the Minister for Manpower is of the view that the Application does not provide sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the CDs. The Minister for Manpower has therefore decided to refuse the Application. The SDP has been notified of the Minister’s decision.”
MOM had issued the correction orders to SDP last month, in connection to one article on SDP’s website as well as two Facebook posts. The article was published on June 8, 2019, and was entitled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last.”
One Facebook posts was posted on the party’s Facebook account, dated November 30 of last year, and another was a sponsored Facebook post, published on 2 December.
MOM said in its statement that “Both the SDP FB post and the sponsored post contain links to the Article, which article contains a false statement of fact. The sponsored post additionally contains a misleading graphic.”
This false statement of fact was an allegation from SDP that more PMETs in Singapore (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) were facing retrenchments.
The “misleading graphic” showed a drop in PMET jobs.
While the party added a correction note to the article and the posts, SDP also asked Ms Teo to cancel the correction orders and also to issue an “immediate, unambiguous and public apology,” calling the directives “an abuse of POFMA”.
MOM added in Monday’s press statement, “Separately, we wish to clarify that the SDP’s assertion that the Minister is applying the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act to the Article retroactively is misconstrued. In particular, the Article was hyperlinked in the SDP FB post and sponsored post, hence it was actively being publicised as late as 2 December 2019.”
Ms Teo’s refusal to cancel the correction directives under POFMA has come a few days after K Shanmugam, Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister rejected an application from Alex Tan, the founder of States Times Review, to also cancel a correction order under POFMA, issued late in November last year.
In Parliament, also on January 6, Minister of Communications and Information S Iswaran said that it was just “a coincidence” that the first POFMA cases had been against political entities.
“I would say that that is a convergence, some might say an unfortunate convergence or coincidence. But whatever the case may be, that is the situation today but it does not mean that is going to be the situation going forward.”
Mr Iswaran was replying to Nominated MPs Anthea Ong and Walter Theseira on the use of Pofma, which has been invoked four times since it came into effect on Oct 2 last year.
Three of the four cases involved opposition parties or their members, including the Singapore Democratic Party, People’s Voice leader Lim Tean and Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer. The fourth case was regarding States Times Review’s founder Alex Tan. -/TISG