National University of Singapore (NUS) president Tan Eng Chye has reminded his staff to avoid violating Singapore’s laws after a faculty member’s article drew the Government’s ire last week.

In an email to his staff, Professor Tan said that NUS has a collective duty to safeguard a high level of trust from the public, as it is a leading global university. He added:

“This trust is eroded when any of our faculty, staff or students engages in disinformation or misinformation. Faculty members, in particular, have a duty to educate students, advocate critical thinking, and demonstrate true scholarship which strives to differentiate truth from falsehoods.

“It runs counter to what NUS stands for – research integrity, and the high standards and rigour of our teaching – if any faculty member falls short of these fundamental tenets of academic excellence.”

Prof Tan went on to remind NUS staff of the university’s staff code of conduct and communications policy, which requires all employees to conduct themselves with propriety and professionalism, upholding the values, integrity, and good reputation of the institution.

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He also called upon staff to adhere to Singapore’s laws and regulations and abide by NUS rules, while cautioning staff against distributing or publishing content in any official capacity that could be deemed libellous, defamatory, obscene, indecent, or abusive, or that could otherwise violate the law.

In addition, Prof Tan urged staff to be clear when expressing their personal views and opinions on any media or platform, ensuring that it is explicitly stated that these views do not represent the official position of NUS. He emphasised, “Do not use the NUS affiliation in such instances.”

Prof Tan added NUS is committed to academic freedom. He said: “Faculty members are free to express and share their views and opinions on any subject matter as long as this is carried out in a professional, responsible and accountable manner, without contravening the laws of Singapore.”

Professor Tan’s e-mail comes a week after the Government invoked the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) against the academic website East Asia Forum over an article written by NUS Assistant Professor Chan Ying-Kit on the series of scandals that gripped Singapore in July.

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The Government said that the op-ed, entitled “A spate of scandals strikes Singapore,” contained several falsehoods linked to several issues and asked East Asia Forum to append a correction notice. Three days later, the Government geo-blocked East Asia Forum for not complying with the full requirements of the order.

Dr Chan has since retracted his article and apologised “sincerely and unreservedly apologises” for the errors, omissions and false statements in his piece. Thanking the Government for the corrections, the academic has said that the article was written of his own volition, without NUS’ knowledge.