Josephine Teo rejects SDP's application to cancel 3 correction directives

SDP chief Chee Soon Juan (left) and Minister of Manpower and Second Minister of Home Affairs Josephine Teo. (PHOTOS: Yahoo News Singapore, Parliament screengrab)

SINGAPORE — Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Monday (6 January) rejected an application by opposition party Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) to cancel three correction directives issued to it under a controversial anti-fake news law.

This comes three days after Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam rejected an application by the founder of socio-political website States Times Review to cancel a correction directive issued to it under the same law.

The outcome of SDP’s application, filed last Friday, was announced in a press statement by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Monday.

“After careful consideration, the Minister for Manpower is of the view that the application does not provide sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the (correction directives). The Minister for Manpower has therefore decided to refuse the application,” said the ministry.

“The SDP has been notified of the minister’s decision.”

The directives were issued by the ministry to the SDP on 14 December, regarding two Facebook posts and an online article by the party titled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”, under the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations (POFMA) law.

The posts on SDP’s Facebook page, dated 30 November and 2 December last year, had contained links to the article, published on 8 June last year, which “contains a false statement of fact”, said the MOM, pertaining to the party’s allegation of a rising trend of local PMET (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) retrenchments.

A “misleading graphic” depicting plunging local PMET employment was also attached to the 2 December sponsored post, it added.

The SDP had complied with the request to add a correction note to each of the Facebook posts and the article, but last Thursday called for Teo to retract the directives and issue an “immediate, unambiguous and public apology” over the matter.

It also rebutted the MOM’s claims and called the directives “an abuse of POFMA”.

In Monday’s statement, the MOM also clarified the party’s assertion that Teo was applying the law to the article retroactively was “misconstrued”.

“In particular, the article was hyperlinked in the SDP FB post and sponsored post, hence it was actively being publicised as late as 2 December 2019,” said the ministry.

The incident is one of four times the law has been invoked since it was enacted in October last year.

The first was on 25 November, when the POFMA office issued a correction notice to opposition party Progress Singapore Party’s member Brad Bowyer, regarding his Facebook post on investments by Temasek Holdings.

The second came three days later when a correction notice was issued against sociopolitical website States Times Review over a Facebook post that falsely claimed several individuals have been arrested over a recent post about Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam.

But Alex Tan – who runs the site and is based overseas – refused, saying he is an Australian citizen and would not comply with requests from a "foreign government".

Social media giant Facebook was then ordered by the POFMA office to put up a correction notice at the bottom of the States Times Review’s social media post.

On 16 December, People’s Voice Party chief and opposition politician Lim Tean was issued a correction order by the Ministry of Education for several Facebook posts covering the issue of scholarships for foreign students.

On Monday in Parliament, Minister of Communications and Information S Iswaran had called it “a coincidence” that the first few cases brought under the law were against political figures and parties.

“I would say that that is a convergence, some might say an unfortunate convergence or coincidence," he said.

“But whatever the case may be, that is the situation today but it does not mean that is going to be the situation going forward.”

Yahoo News Singapore has reached out to the SDP for comment.

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Related stories: 

Shanmugam rejects application by States Times Review founder to cancel correction directive

SDP applies to cancel 3 correction orders issued by Manpower Ministry under POFMA

SDP article, Facebook posts contain falsehoods: POFMA Office