Legal challenge to Singapore misinformation law rejected

The Singaporean government insists the misinformation law is necessary to stop falsehoods from circulating online that could sow divisions in the multi-ethnic, multi-faith country. (AFP)
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Updated 05 February 2020

Legal challenge to Singapore misinformation law rejected

  • Law slammed by rights groups and tech giants, including Facebook, who claim it curbs free speech
  • Government insists the misinformation law is necessary to stop falsehoods from circulating online

SINGAPORE: The first legal challenge to Singapore’s law against online misinformation was rejected Wednesday, a blow to opponents who say it is being used to stifle dissent before elections.
The controversial legislation gives authorities the power to order corrections be placed next to posts they deem false.
It has been slammed by rights groups and tech giants, including Facebook, who claim it curbs free speech.
Since the law came into force in October, several opposition figures and activists have been ordered to place a banner next to online posts stating they contain inaccurate information.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), one of a handful of small opposition groups in the country, mounted the challenge after a government minister told it to correct three online posts about employment.
The posts, on Facebook and the party’s website, said many Singaporeans had been displaced from white-collar jobs by foreigners — claims the government said were “false and misleading.”
Immigration is a hot-button issue in the city-state, where the government is regularly criticized for the large presence of foreign workers.
But the High Court dismissed the challenge, with Justice Ang Cheng Hock ruling that the SDP’s statements were “false in the face of the statistical evidence against them.”
“The appellant has not challenged the accuracy of the statistical evidence, and has instead sought to critique it on other grounds,” he added.
The government insists the misinformation law is necessary to stop falsehoods from circulating online that could sow divisions in the multi-ethnic, multi-faith country.
But political activists and opposition parties such as the SDP say it is being used to suppress criticism ahead of elections, expected to be called within months.
While it is praised for its economic management, affluent Singapore’s government is also regularly criticized for curbing civil liberties.
The People’s Action Party has ruled Singapore for decades and looks set to comfortably win the next polls, with a fragmented opposition seen as little threat.


Qatar’s BeIN chairman, two others indicted in bribery case

Updated 20 February 2020

Qatar’s BeIN chairman, two others indicted in bribery case

  • Former FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke charged with accepting bribes, among others
  • Al-Khelaifi charged with inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement

GENEVA: Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was charged Thursday by Swiss federal prosecutors in connection with a wider bribery investigation linked to World Cup television rights.

The office of Switzerland’s attorney general filed an indictment charging Al-Khelaifi with inciting former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke “to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.”

The Qatari football and television executive, however, no longer faces an accusation of bribery. Following a three-year investigation, FIFA reached an “amicable agreement” with Al-Khelaifi last month, prosecutors said, to drop its criminal complaint relating to the awarding of 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights to Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports.

Al-Khelaifi is the head of Doha-based BeIN Sports and also a member of the UEFA executive committee.

Al-Khelaifi was indicted for his alleged part in providing Valcke — who had influence over the awarding of World Cup rights until being removed from office in 2015 — with use of a luxury villa in Sardinia without paying rent valued at up to €1.8 million ($1.94 million).

Valcke was charged with accepting bribes, “several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement … and falsification of documents.”

For the first time in the five-year investigation of FIFA business, Swiss prosecutors revealed that they believe Valcke received kickbacks totaling €1.25 million to steer World Cup rights toward favored broadcasters in Italy and Greece.

A third person who was not identified was charged with bribery over those payments and also for inciting Valcke to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement.

Al-Khelaifi was appointed to the UEFA executive committee, representing European football clubs, one year ago despite being implicated in the bribery case. He is also an influential board member of the European Club Association, which is seeking to drive reforms in the Champions League to favor elite clubs such as French champion PSG.

He denied wrongdoing after being questioned in 2017 and 2019 in connection with criminal proceedings opened three years ago.

Al-Khelaifi has also been implicated in a separate corruption investigation by French prosecutors that is linked to Qatar seeking hosting rights for the track and field world championships. Doha hosted the 2019 edition.