Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and Minsitry of Law (MinLaw) came out on a joint Facebook which alleged an article on The Online Citizen (TOC) and Terry Xu for spreading fake news.
The article in question is titled 'Has anyone thought about this one way top down enforcement of so called “fake news”?' by one Ghui on The Online Citzen. In the article, Ghui mentioned that the new law "could potentially allow a Minister to deem a piece of news as “fake” as a means to silence a critic just because of how much discretion it gives the minister in this determination."
Though he did write a disclaimer: "While I am not suggesting that this has been done or will be done, therein lies a risk."
Ghui also questioned if there is a "risk of the legislation being used to silence critics for a crucial 9 days in the lead up to an election?” another question in mind is whether the opposition parties will start to censore their own campaign posts leading up to the event in fear of running foul of the law.
Editor of TOC, Terry Xu also talked about the POFMA in a Facebook post. He talked about what the appeal timeframe means in a General election. According to his calculations, it would take nine or ten days to appeal to the minister and setting the hearing date. The Singapore General Election is typically just nine days long from the point of nomination day to polling day.
With this, Terry Xu's concern is that if someone whistleblows during an election or just prior, the ruling party can throw a takedown or correction order on the story or statement by the whistleblower, only for the story to be proven correct after the election is over.
In MCI and MinLaw's statement on their Facebook, they wrote " “For example, they incorrectly assert that Ministers can use POFMA during the elections to restrict and curtail online content.
The Act states that for the entire election period Ministers cease to exercise their powers under POFMA. Instead, senior civil servants are appointed as the Ministers’ alternate authorities for the election period.
The robust safeguards on the use of POFMA will continue to be in place during the elections.”
However, Terry Xu rebutted by saying that both post and article are of the author's opinion on how POFMA could be potentially abused. Also, "It does not explain away from the fact that it is PAP ministers who will be choosing the senior civil servant in charge of exercising the powers granted under POFA, prior to stepping down as ministers when parliament is dissolved for an election."
Way to stand up to them Terry! They say that they "cease to exercise powers of POFMA" during elections. But these aren't these the same people who deny any gerrymandering when we see it happening all the while? Or is the change of boundaries truly for a better Singapore? These are the same people who claims to want to give us a better, more affordable future but prices are rising everywhere. We should all also think about how these ministers are the one who order the civil servants to babysit POFMA during the election period. Would they dare go against their bosses?
Exciting times are coming though. Kudos to people like Terry who are standing up for us and asking the right questions!