Putrajaya—Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is in Malaysia for a two-day leaders’ retreat, answered questions about the proposed new law that is against fake news. The legislation, he says, “works for Singapore.”
PM Lee was asked questions concerning the new legislation at a press conference yesterday (Apr 9) after his meeting with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Criticism has recently come from Reporters Without Border who have said that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill (POFMB) was “Orwellian” as well as “a major obstacle to the freedom to inform in Singapore”, according to Channel News Asia.
PM Lee responded: “I’m not surprised that Reporters Without Borders criticises it; they criticise many things about Singapore’s media management.
“What we have done has worked for Singapore and it’s our objective to continue to do things which will work for Singapore and I think POFMB will be a significant step forward in this regard.”
He also said that this sort of problem is faced by countries all over the world and that Singapore is by no means the only country employing legislation to stop fake news from proliferating.
“Singapore is not the only one who has taken legislating on this issue; the French have done so, the Germans have done so, the Australians have just done something similar and very draconian,” PM Lee said.
The Malaysian prime minister also took a shot at answering the question. Mahathir told the reporter that since the government promised to abolish its anti-fake news law, it will do so.
However, he added, “On the other hand we know that social media can be abused quite seriously. For us, that means that we have to learn how to handle such fake news.
“But, when we have a law that prevents people from airing their views, we are afraid that the government itself may abuse the law as happened in the last government.”
The two heads of state also answered questions pertaining to bilateral issues, including the water situation between Malaysia and Singapore during the press conference.
High Hopes for the leaders’ retreat
”We have much to discuss. Look forward to a fruitful meeting with PM Mahathir tomorrow,” wrote PM Lee in a Facebook post on April 8, Monday, on the eve of the ninth Singapore-Malaysia Leaders’ Retreat. The meeting between PM Lee and Mahathir had originally been scheduled for November 2018 but had then been postponed.
This retreat happens to be the first one that the Pakatan Harapan government is hosting, since winning the general election in May 2018. Instituted by the predecessor of Dr Mahathir, former Prime Minister Najib Razak, the meeting is meant to be a venue for candid discussions on bilateral issues and to strengthen cooperation between the two nations.
Yesterday morning, PM Lee and Mahathir had a bilateral meeting, followed by a delegation meeting along with the ministers and senior officials who are with the prime ministers at the retreat.
Afterward, Mahathir and his wife hosted a luncheon for PM Lee and Mrs Lee, as well as the delegation from Singapore.
Accompanying PM Lee are nine cabinet ministers: Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean; Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan; Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan; Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran; Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat; Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu; Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing; Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong; and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli./TISG
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