Late on 6 October, Straits Times reported on a statement made by the Ministry of Communication and Information (MCI) and Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on the Facebook page of MCI which asserted that a post by TOC’s Chief Editor Terry Xu and an article posted on TOC’s website “incorrectly assert that ministers can use the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) during elections to restrict and curtail online content.”
The statement posted around 8 pm on 6 October continued, “The Act states that for the entire election period ministers cease to exercise their powers under Pofma. Instead, senior civil servants are appointed as the ministers’ alternate authorities for the election period.”
“The robust safeguards on the use of Pofma will continue to be in place during the elections. It is disingenuous to talk about the need for voters to know ‘what actually happened’, while suggesting that falsehoods should be allowed to go unaddressed during an election period,” added the ministries.
The statement was referring to an opinion piece written by Ghui on TOC titled “Has anyone thought about this one way top down enforcement of so called “fake news”?” and a post made by Terry on his personal Facebook page, both published on 5 October.
The ST report covered the story up to this point.
However, following MCI & MinLaw’s joint statement on the article and Facebook post, Terry published his own response to the ministries saying that he disagreed with the statement “as both post and article are of the authors’ opinion of how POFMA could be abused particularly in the event of a General Election, based on the timeframe of an appeal against a takedown and correction order”.
Terry said in his follow-up Facebook post about three hours following MCI’s statement, “It does not explain away from the fact that it is PAP ministers who will be choosing the senior civil servant in charge of exercising the powers granted under POFMA, prior to stepping down as ministers when parliament is dissolved for an election.”
Terry asserted that MCI’s clarification shows how there is no need for POFMA as the government’s stance on matters it disagrees with will be widely reported and spread to the masses for clarification.
ST hasn’t reported on Terry’s response to MCI
Interestingly, Straits Times has yet to report on Terry’s response to the statement by MCI and MinLaw.
Commenting on ST’s lack of reporting on his response to MCI and MinLaw, Terry said: “This omission by Straits Times shows us what would likely happen during the General Election, where POFMA is used to declare online posts which include opinions as falsehoods and the mainstream media simply report the government’s side of story”.
Update – ST has updated its digital copy of the report with Terry’s response as of 8 Oct.