S'pore envoy to UK rebuts Economist article, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

S'pore envoy to UK rebuts Economist article

This article is more than 12 months old

Singapore's fake news law does not limit free speech, she says

An Economist article on Singapore's fake news law has drawn a rebuttal from Singapore's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ms Foo Chi Hsia.

In a letter published on the magazine's website this week, Ms Foo stated that the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) does not limit free speech - rather it enhances the quality of public discourse.

She added that the law "strengthens and safeguards proper public accountability that must necessarily underpin democracies".

"Online posts that have been corrected remain available in full, but with links to the Government's response appended," she said. "Readers can see both and decide for themselves which is the truth. How does twinning factual replies to falsehoods limit free speech?"

Ms Foo was responding to an article published on Dec 7, which characterised Pofma as an addition to the Singapore Government's "criticism-suppressing arsenal" and referenced two recent uses of the law.

The first use was against opposition politician Brad Bowyer, who had questioned the independence and investment decisions of Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC and investment company Temasek.

The Economist wrote that while Mr Bowyer's post had contained errors - on which the authorities "seized" - its main contention that the Government's investments were not as well managed as they could be "is clearly a subjective matter".

The second use of Pofma was against socio-political website States Times Review, which alleged that the Republic's elections are rigged and that the next one could "possibly turn Singapore into a Christian state".

In her letter, Ms Foo said The Economist had misrepresented the falsehoods that the Government had corrected.

The States Times Review article also made false claims that the Government has arrested specific critics, she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Bowyer's post "did not only question the 'investment nous of Singapore's sovereign wealth funds', but was based on false allegations of losses that never occurred", she added.

The High Commissioner noted that fake stories have influenced British politics, "notably in the Brexit campaign".

She added: "Singapore's laws are designed to meet our own context and needs. We have no ambition to set any example for other countries, but neither do we make any apologies for defending our own interests."

Singapore Politics