Historian issued correction order over video on Pofma

This article is more than 12 months old

Historian Thum Ping Tjin has been asked to put up corrections to a video in which he asserted Singapore's fake news law renders all criticism of the Government illegal.

Describing this claim and several others as false and misleading, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office yesterday issued correction directions to Dr Thum, as well as the New Naratif website he had founded.

"Contrary to what Mr Thum suggests, people are free to criticise and disagree with the Government," said the Government on its fact-checking website Factually.

Dr Thum posted the video on New Naratif's YouTube channel last Friday, as part of his online video series that analyses and criticises government policies and actions.

Under the correction direction, initiated by Law Minister K. Shanmugam, the historian will have to run a correction notice that links to the facts alongside his video.

The Law Ministry noted in a statement that the video itself will remain fully accessible to the public.

"Thus, members of the public will be in a position to view the video, read the correction notice and clarifications, and come to their own conclusions," it said.

Dr Thum did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

In his video, he had questioned the Government's real reason for Pofma.

He alleged that the law exists to silence critics and opposition, and is so sweeping that "even if one bit is found to be wrong or misleading, the whole statement can be considered false".

He added that since it was "impossible to include every single fact about anything in the statement... every statement can be considered false in some way".

The Government said it was untrue an entire statement will be automatically considered false because part of it is false.

It added that the legal criteria for establishing falsity of a statement has been developed by the courts over centuries.

The Government also reiterated that Pofma applies only to false statements of fact, and thus does not apply to criticism based on opinions or true facts.


Dr Thum had also said Pofma makes all criticisms of the Government illegal; there is no recourse in law when the Government abuses its powers under Pofma; and ministers have the last word on the truth.

To these, the Government said: "It is untrue (and absurd) to say that Pofma makes all criticisms of the Government illegal.

"Before and after Pofma came into force, there have been criticisms of the Government (including by Mr Thum), on a regular basis. They have not been the subject of Pofma."

It added that the courts have judicial oversight of the exercise of powers under Pofma, and as such it is false to assert "the truth will be whatever the party says it is".