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

Screencap of States Times Review's Facebook post (left) and Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam. (PHOTOS: POFMA Office, Parliament screencap)

SINGAPORE — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Friday (3 January) rejected an application by the founder of a socio-political website to cancel a correction directive issued to it under a controversial anti-fake news law.

The outcome of States Times Review founder Alex Tan’s application to cancel the directive was announced in a press statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday.

The ministry said that Tan’s application, which was sent on Wednesday, had simply restated the false statements and provided no evidence to disprove the grounds on which the correction directive was issued.

“After having carefully considered the application, the Minister for Home Affairs has decided to reject it. Alex Tan has been notified of the rejection,” said the MHA.

The correction directive was issued last year over a States Times Review Facebook post falsely claiming that several individuals have been arrested over a post about Shanmugam, in accordance with the Protection against Online Falsehoods and Manipulations (POFMA) law.

The post, published on 23 November, alleged that the ruling People’s Action Party had planned to field a Christian evangelist in a bid to “garner Christian support” and “possibly turn Singapore into a Christian state”.

It then claimed that the “whistleblower” who exposed the party candidate’s Christian affiliations was arrested and faced charges for “fabricating fake news”.

It also alleged that the owner of the NUSSU-NUS Students United Facebook page – which had in a post written about the candidate and later singled out by Shanmugam for misquoting him on religion and politics – was arrested on the minister’s orders.

These “false statements of facts” were refuted in the MHA’s statement on 28 November, said the ministry. A correction directive was issued to Tan on the same day, which required him to insert a correction notice stating that the States Times Review’s Facebook post contained false statements of fact.

Tan – who is based overseas – had refused, saying he is an Australian citizen and would not comply with requests from a "foreign government". The MHA confirmed on Friday that Tan has, to date, not complied with the request.

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.

The incident marks the second of four times POFMA has been invoked since it was enacted in October last year.

The first occasion 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.

Three directives were also issued by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to opposition party Singapore Democratic Party 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”.

The party submitted an application on Friday to the MOM to cancel these directives.

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.

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

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