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.


Thailand suspends TV station over protests coverage

Updated 20 October 2020

Thailand suspends TV station over protests coverage

  • Thailand said on Monday that three other media organizations are under investigation
  • Protests have only gained momentum since the government announced a ban last Thursday and arrested dozens of protesters

BANGKOK: A Thai court on Tuesday ordered the suspension of an online TV station critical of the government, which has accused it of violating emergency measures aimed at ending three months of protests.
Voice TV had also been found to have breached the Computer Crime Act by uploading “false information,” digital ministry spokesman Putchapong Nodthaisong told reporters.
Thailand has drawn criticism from rights groups for banning demonstrations and the publication of news seen as damaging by the government as it tries to end the protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the powerful monarchy.
Rittikorn Mahakhachabhorn, Editor-in-Chief of Voice TV, said it would continue broadcasting until the court order arrived.
“We insist that we have been operating based on journalistic principles and we will continue our work presently,” he said.
Thailand said on Monday that three other media organizations are under investigation.
Voice TV is owned in part by the Shinawatra family of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was overthrown by Prayuth in a 2014 coup. Both fled Thailand to escape corruption cases they branded political.
Street protests since mid-July are the biggest challenge in decades to the monarchy under King Maha Vajiralongkorn and to Prayuth, who rejects accusations of engineering an election last year to keep power.
The demonstrations have been largely led by youths and students in contrast with a decade of street violence between supporters of Thaksin and conservative royalists before Prayuth seized power.
Protests have only gained momentum since the government announced a ban last Thursday and arrested dozens of protesters, including many of the main leaders.
A lawyer for two of them, Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul, said they would be arrested again on Tuesday as soon as they had been freed on bail granted by a court over earlier charges related to the protests.
Prime Minister Prayuth has said he will not quit in the face of the protests.
His cabinet agreed on Tuesday to hold an emergency session of parliament next week about the crisis. Prayuth’s supporters hold a majority in the parliament, whose upper house was named entirely by his former junta.