Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam said on Wednesday that our website, The Online Citizen, employs foreigners to write almost exclusively negative articles on social and political matters in Singapore, including content that seek to ‘fracture social cohesion’.
Highlighting specifically the article that is now the subject of a lawsuit between PM Lee Hsien Loong and TOC’s editor Terry Xu, Mr Shanmugan said, “I’m not commenting on the legal merits of the article, since it is the subject of a lawsuit, only that a foreigner, staying in Malaysia, writes these things for a Singapore site to target a Singapore audience.”
He went on: “Who controls her? Who pays her? What is her purpose? All these are legitimate questions. most readers would just assume this was by a genuine Singaporean contributor.”
Mr Shanmugan was speaking at a one-day conference on Foreign Interference Tactics and Countermeasures organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.
In his speech, Mr Shanmugan also questioned the administrators of TOC, saying that nine out of 14 are located outside of Singapore. “We don’t know who they are. Are they Singaporeans? Are they foreigners?”
He also talked about how “some news sites” have anonymous contributors, which leaves them open to being used by foreign interests to publish inflammatory articles that “attack and deepen divisions” within a country.
“They have no interest in sociopolitical stability within a country,” he said.
“Their only interest is in eyeballs.”
Responding to Mr Shanmugam’s fiery statement, Terry asserts that all articles published on TOC are directed and subsequently approved by him as the Chief Editor.
“Nothing goes unvetted by me, a Singaporean who has served his national service and held responsible by the Ministry of Communication and Information as the registered person in charge,” said Terry.
“If one is to observe the series of Facebook posts and now, the Law Minister comments, one can easily come to a conclusion that there is a collaborated campaign to discredit TOC.”
He then went on to address the debate on hiring foreign persons, saying, “To the best of my recollection, there is no law against hiring person of foreign nationality and TOC has not used nor received any foreign funding. So what is the Law Minister barking about?”