Singapore — The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) posted two articles on its website last week about court proceedings concerning its appeal against the Correction Orders issued to it under the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).
On Monday (Jan 20), the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) asked the High Court for a further hearing on the matter. It said statements posted on SDP’s website concerning the court proceedings were misleading.
The AGC has written a letter to the High Court saying it took issue with the two articles SDP posted. “It is the A-G’s case that while the minister’s interpretation is important as the minister must first form a bona fide view as to what a reasonable interpretation of the subject statement is to decide whether to take action under Pofma, it is the court (and not the minister) which ultimately decides what the subject statement means,” the letter read.
The AGC said that the first article had been “calculated to embarrass the minister and falsely portray Pofma in a negative light”.
Justice Ang Cheng Hock had told the SDP after the first article was posted that it needed to ensure the accuracy of the statements that it posted but, according to the AGC, the party “repeated the same false and dishonest narrative” in a second article posted last Saturday (Jan 18).
According to Deputy A-G Hri Kumar Nair, the second article published “materially misrepresents the AG’s arguments”, similar to when it posted one of the original articles that came under a Pofma Correction Order.
The Straits Times (ST) quotes the AGC as saying: “The SDP’s conduct is completely unacceptable. It has acted in blatant defiance of His Honour’s reminder that any report or comment by the SDP in relation to the ongoing proceedings should be accurate and correct, and its conduct risks undermining public confidence in the administration of justice.”
The AGC added: “In view of the severity of the SDP’s misconduct and its recalcitrance, we seek leave for a hearing before His Honour. We would be grateful if this letter and its accompanying enclosures are placed before His Honour as soon as possible.”
The SDP has, in response to the AGC’s letter, written to the Supreme Court, saying that it had not misrepresented the words of Mr Nair.
“It is the Government’s position that ‘the minister who initiates a Pofma direction will look at the article or statement in question and determine what he believes to be its meaning’.
“We knew that Pofma had a provision for us to take the matter to court. This means that we knew that the court would have the final say, that is, the judge will make the final determination on the Government’s stand.
“The SDP does not believe that this is end of the matter under the Act… The fact that we’ve taken the matter to court makes clear our stand that the Government does not have a final say in the matter.” -/TISG