The Online Citizen (TOC) has filed for judicial review of the correction direction made under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) on posts made about the salary of Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching.
TOC filed two applications on 29 April, namely the POFMA appeal against Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s correction direction — issued by the POFMA office on 19 April — and a judicial review on the Minister’s decision to issue a POFMA correction direction.
The appeal was filed as the Minister rejected TOC’s earlier application to cancel the correction direction.
TOC and three other parties were earlier asked to correct claims that Mdm Ho’s annual salary is “NT$2.1 billion”, “about 100 million SGD” or “S$99 million a year. Mdm Ho is also the wife of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
The POFMA office on 19 April said it received instructions from the Finance Minister to issue correction directions to TOC’s website and Facebook page, as well as The Temasek Review’s Facebook page and HardwareZone user ‘darkseidluv’.
The Government also clarified that it does not set the remuneration of staff in Temasek and that such decisions were made by the investment company’s board and management.
People’s Voice Party chief Lim Tean was also issued a similar correction direction for sharing the falsehood on his Facebook page.
The correction order noted that is the opinion of the Finance Minister that it is in the public interest to issue these directions.
While the correction notice made references to social media posts made on the subject on Facebook and HardwareZone Forum, it did not identify the Taiwan news outlet that made the initial claim as the source of the alleged false claim.
HardwareZone has made a correction on the post in question by its user, noting that the post contains falsehoods and included a link to the government’s clarification of the facts.
For TOC, the correction direction is for an article on the website, a Facebook post which links to the article on TOC’s site, and Facebook video post of the Taiwanese news show which made the claim.
TOC has similarly complied with the correction directions.
The joint hearing of the POFMA appeal and judicial review application, scheduled to be held either at the end of June or the first week of July, will be confirmed later and is subject to changes should the COVID-19 circuit breaker measures extend beyond 1 June.
The judicial review application made by TOC is seeking for leave be granted to apply for a quashing order to against the enforcement of the correction direction issued by the Finance Minister on 19 April.
It is also seeking for the court to issue a declaration that the 19 April correction direction by the Finance Minister was ultra vires — out of or beyond the scope of authority — of POFMA on the grounds that it was, illegal, irrational, disproportionate, and/or in breach of Article 14 of the Constitution.
Article 14 provides for the rights to freedom of speech and expression.
TOC is represented by Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, which has been recognised by Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific 2020 as “Other Notable Firms” in two practice areas, namely commercial & transactions and white-collar crime.