Adding to a list of other professors, histories, members of the media, and organisations which have come forth with a laundry list of concerns over Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) is the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
In an open letter to the PM Lee, DPM Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Law Minister K Shanmugam, and Parliament Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin, the ICJ described POFMA in its current form as “vague” and “inconsistent” with international legal standards.
The letter, which was written by ICJ’s Legal and Policy Director Ian Seiderman on behalf of the commission, spells out the concerns ICJ has regarding POFMA, specifically how the provisions present a real risk of curtailing “important discussions of matters of public interest in the public sphere, including content critical of the government”.
ICJ points out how the Bill is vaguely worded, failing to define things like “fundamental terms pertaining to the implementation of the law” such as ‘false statement of fact’ and “public interest”, which Mr Seiderman argued will hinder individuals from forming a “precise understanding of the law” and to subsequently “regulate their conduct accordingly”. Self-censorship.
Mr Siederman wrote, “Critical dissent, free exchange and development of opinions, and free access to information are necessary to maintain an informed society and ensure transparency, accountability and informed debate on crucial matters of public interest.”
Curiously, both Media Corp and SPH (Channel NewsAsia and Straits Times) have neglected to report on the open letter, let alone its contents.
ICJ is an international human rights non-governmental organisation. The commission is a standing group of 60 eminent jurists including senior judges, attorneys, and academics from around the world dedicated to ensuring respect for human rights standards though the law.
In the letter, ICJ urged the Singapore Parliament not to pass the bill into law, at the very least not without substantial amendments to address the deficiencies that have been pointed out.
For an esteemed, major international body to have made these strong criticisms and pointed out the glaring legal flaws in the proposed legislation, you would think that Singapore’s mainstream media would have at least reported on it. Why haven’t they?