In a statement published by the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) today (4 Apr), SPH said it welcomes the Government’s draft legislation to “deal decisively with the challenge of deliberate online falsehoods”.
“Given the vulnerabilities that exist in society, the measures proposed will help address a clear and present danger posed by those who seek to use new media platforms to spread misinformation and falsehoods deliberately,” SPH said.
“We had proposed that a level playing field be established for all media players in having to correct or take down online falsehoods, and welcome the moves to do so in the draft Bill.”
In its statement, SPH continues to propose an “independent fact-checking body” to decide on content which was deemed false. SPH proposed this during the earlier hearings of the Select Committee.
SPH explained that having an “independent fact-checking body” would lend credibility to the process in the eyes of the public.
In the end, the committee decided that the ministers would be the ones who would decide on content which was deemed false in the interest of “speed”. Such decisions can still be challenged in court, nonetheless.
SPH said, “While we understand the need to act quickly in some instances, we continue to believe that an independent authority would have provided a neutral avenue for content creators or news organisations to appeal to, short of resorting to a legal challenge.”
However, SPH did not elaborate who should be sitting in this “independent authority”. Still, it went ahead to support the Government’s draft legislation to tackle online “fake news”.
SPH editors “groomed to tow the line”
It’s not surprising that SPH would support the government’s position, in general.
According to a US diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks several years ago (https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09SINGAPORE61_a.html), it was revealed that editors inside SPH were “groomed” to support the government.
For example, the leaked cable quoted Chua Chin Hon, then ST’s bureau chief for US, saying that SPH’s “editors have all been groomed as pro-government supporters and are careful to ensure that reporting of local events adheres closely to the official line”.
Chua said that unless one of the editors is a “Trojan Horse,” someone that for years has successfully concealed any non pro-government leanings, none of them has the courage to publish any stories critical of the government.
But Chua also admitted that he knew of no editors who had been fired or otherwise punished for printing articles critical of the government. That is because all of the them have been “vetted” to ensure their pro-government leanings, Chua said.
It also revealed that the lower-rung reporters are “eager to produce more investigative and critical reporting, but they are stifled by editors who have been groomed to tow the line”.