Parliament: Appeal against minister's decision under fake news law could be heard in court in 6 days

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Law Minister K. Shanmugam (Photo: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Law Minister K. Shanmugam (Photo: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — An appeal against a minister’s decision under the proposed fake news law could be heard in court in as little as six days.

Meanwhile, a minister would have up to two days to make a decision after receiving an application by an individual against his or her direction.

Speaking during the second reading of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said the appeal process for individuals seeking redress would be expedited.

Under the draft law, a minister can order or direct an individual to issue a correction alongside content deemed false, or to take down the content.

The law will give ministers the power to direct online sites such as Facebook, Google and Twitter to put warnings next to posts that are deemed false.

The government has said that the new law will help Singapore guard against malicious actors who knowingly spread harmful falsehoods and act against public interest.

But the draft law has triggered widespread concerns including on the sweeping definition of what constitutes a falsehood, the extensive powers to be given to individual ministers to deal with falsehood, and the potentially adverse impact it would have on free speech in Singapore.

When a minister determines an individual behind a falsehood and issues an order, the latter has to comply first. The individual can choose to apply to the minister to cancel the order.

Shanmugam said a standard form will be provided online for this. The form must be sent to an email address, which will be given in the minister's order or direction.

Once the minister has decided on the application, the individual would have up to 14 days to file an appeal with the High Court. And the court would have to hear the appeal within six days after an appeal is filed.

And no court fees will be charged for first three days of hearing. Thereafter, the usual court fees will apply, although the courts may waive fees.

Shanmugam said the detailed procedure for challenging a minister’s decision will be spelled out in subsidiary legislation, which is expected to be filed after the primary legislation is passed.

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