Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry clashes with Asia Sentinel over POFMA correction notice compliance

SINGAPORE – On 26 May, the Minister for Home Affairs and Law, K Shanmugam, directed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office to issue a Correction Direction to the California-based news outlet Asia Sentinel, which covers Asian regional news, business, arts and culture.

The  Minister had demanded a correction of the Asia Sentinel’s 24 May story, “Killing the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys,” citing it contained several factual inaccuracies.

Following that, the news outlet complied with the correction order and responded to the Singapore government’s move in a statement on 29 May, maintaining its position on the story and defending itself against the alleged attempts by the Singapore government to silence critics.

Despite complying with the correction direction, the news outlet said it remains steadfast in its stance on the content and assertions of the story.

“First, we are domiciled in California in the United States, which would be the appropriate place for any potential legal action by Singapore, and we are not subject to demands or threats of the Singapore government.”

Asia Sentinel further criticized the POFMA act as a “draconian provision” used against the press, political figures, critics of Singapore, and anyone daring to voice their opinion against it.

“We believe it is being used against Asia Sentinel because we reported fairly and completely on the controversy over the government’s attempts to silence a critic. We repeat, we stand by our story.”

Correction notice not published in required form: MHA

On Friday (2 June), Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) responded to Asia Sentinel’s statement, reiterating that POFMA is a primary tool to “correct falsehoods” via a correction notice, which must be placed in a specified proximity to the original post with a link to the Government’s clarification.

“This is akin to the right of reply practised by newspapers and magazines. POFMA does not require the original post to be removed. Instead, the clarification sets out the falsehoods and facts for the public. Readers can read both the original post and the facts and decide for themselves what is the truth.”

MHA said while Asia Sentinel is not required to remove their article, but the news outlet is obliged to publish the correction notice according to the specifications outlined in the Correction Direction.

“Similar requirements have been placed on other recipients of Correction Directions and they have complied. ”

“If Asia Sentinel truly believes in free speech, it should be happy for its readers to read both the Article and the correction notice, and make up their own minds which is true,” MHA claimed in a statement.

MHA further warns that while the correction notice has been published, the news outlet has not been done so in the required form and manner specified in the Correction Direction.

The MHA indicated that further action may be taken by the government if the correction is not made accordingly.

The correction notice has been published and is currently accessible through a link on the Asia Sentinel website. However, the standard requirement under the POFMA correction direction is for the prescribed wording of the notice to be prominently displayed at the top of the website.

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