View of Singapore Parliament. Singapore is a unitary multiparty parliamentary republic, with a Westminster system of unicameral parliamentary government (Photo by Phuong D. Nguyen from Shutterstock.com).

Still “time” left to “appropriately revise” proposed POFMA: ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

There is still time to “appropriately revise” the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill before its Second Reading in Parliament this week to ensure that the proposed Act is passed in accordance with international law, said the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) in Jakarta on Tue (7 May).

In its statement on Tue, APHR urged the Singapore government to “significantly amend” the Bill, which it warns will likely “curb free speech and give authorities sweeping powers to punish critics”.

APHR raised concerns over how terms such as “false statement of fact”, “public interest” and “public tranquility” are “vaguely and broadly defined”, leaving for excessively broad interpretation by the relevant authorities such as Ministers and the Competent Authority instructed by the Ministers to issue corrective or take-down orders.

“Severe and disproportionate penalties could be imposed on a wide range of potential victims, including internet service providers, internet and digital advertising intermediaries,” warned APHR.

Board Chair of APHR and Klang Member of Parliament (MP) Charles Santiago said: “The Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill would be a grave threat to freedom of expression in Singapore if it is passed in its current form.

“While states have a right and duty to guard against false content online, the vague language in this bill means it is easily open to abuse,” said the Malaysian MP.

“MPs in Singapore must use the second reading of the bill this week to push for significant changes that bring it in line with international human rights standards.”

“The proposed ‘fake news’ bill flies in the face of international standards on freedom of expression. It is difficult to see how this is not just another attempt by the authorities to silence debate online.

“This bill would simply have the effect of discouraging people from voicing their views in fear of violating the law and facing heavy penalties,” added Mr Santiago.

“APHR urges the Singapore parliament to carefully consider the dangers that this bill would pose and ensure that the bill is not passed in its current state,” said APHR.