Former PAP MP Inderjit Singh has lauded the PAP government on it move to combat fake news. He has, however, cautioned the government to address several procedural concerns and aim for a balance between combating fake news and upholding freedom of speech, in order not to lose the trust of the citizens. By doing so, Singh believes that Singapore can be an example for the rest of the world on how to manage the fake news menace.
Singh has a reputation for being an outspoken backbencher who was not afraid to speak out against PAP's policies. Nevertheless, despite his retirement, he remains a member of the party and will continue to speak on behalf of the party.
We can all agree that fake news needs to be addressed. The implications are potentially severe, especially when it comes to more sensitive matters involving race and religion. Spreading such fake news may be carried out by any member of the public, for various reasons. They can also be done by foreign parties, potentially through local proxies, to destabilise our country for their own benefit. Fake news is not a joke and combating it shouldn't be taken lightly.
That being said, the government has yet to demonstrate emphatically that it understands the difference between expressing an opinion, and perpetuating a false statement of fact. Singaporeans are concerned.
What compounds these concerns are also appeals procedures and processes that are not as independent as they can be, like what Singh himself had pointed out. At the very least, the appeals process and language have to be made more accessible and simple, and the appeals should be overseen by an independent committee not made of the government or civil servants.
Singapore may never achieve Singh's vision of becoming a beacon for the world in terms of handling fake news. However, there are tweaks that it can make to the process and scope of the bill, to win the trust of Singaporeans.