Thum Ping Tjin, New Naratif to challenge POFMA notice despite compliance

Thum Ping Tjin, managing director of New Naratif. (FILE PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Historian Thum Ping Tjin intends to challenge the correction notice directive sent to his online site New Naratif by the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office.

In a statement uploaded on the website on Thursday (14 May), Dr Thum – who is the managing director of New Naratif – said that while the site has complied with the legal directive to display the correction notice, it will be “contesting the directive through the appropriate channels”.

Clarification of opinions on POFMA law

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on Wednesday instructed the POFMA office to issue the correction orders to Dr Thum and New Naratif over a video, entitled “The Show with PJ Thum – Ep 8 – How bad laws are created and abused in Singapore (A POFMA case study)”.

Government website Factually also clarified the statements made by Dr Thum on its page on Wednesday, rebutting the allegations that he had made in his video.

In its website statement, New Naratif clarified its opinions on the POFMA law:

  • It is of the opinion that the extremely broad definitions of falsehoods and public interest in POFMA allows, in theory, any criticism of the Singapore government to be considered false.

  • While the government has assured that criticism is acceptable in Singapore, it does not believe it.

  • In its opinion, POFMA correction directions are an attempt to intimidate independent media and an abuse of the law, designed to strike fear into the hearts of the government’s critics and citizenry.

  • New Naratif condemns what is, in its opinion, an unjust and undemocratic law and call for the POFMA law to be revised in consultation with the general public.

  • It is of the opinion that both the Minister for Law and New Naratif would benefit from debate about this issue. It renews its invitation to Shanmugam to have a debate over the impact of the POFMA law on freedom of expression in Singapore.

Late upload of correction notice

According to The Straits Times, the Ministry of Law said that Dr Thum had failed to comply within 24 hours of receiving the correction direction, which was sent on Wednesday at around 3pm, and had thus received a warning at 4.06pm on Thursday.

The ministry noted that Dr Thum had put up the correction notice on Facebook at 4.50pm on Thursday after receiving the warning.

Dr Thum came to the public’s attention when he and Shanmugam sparred over the history of Operation Coldstore for almost six hours on the final day of the Select Committee hearings on Deliberate Online Falsehoods in 2018.

The police and Special Branch officers launched the operation in the wee hours of 2 February 1963 and arrested more than 100 people including leaders of opposition party Barisan Sosialis, in a bid to crush what the then authorities called a communist conspiracy to seize power in Singapore.

Dr Thum had maintained that the operation was carried out primarily due to political and not security considerations.

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