Human Rights Watch: New ‘Online Falsehoods’ Law Further Curbs Rights

Singapore’s government placed greater restrictions on the country’s already sharply curtailed free expression rights in 2019, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.

The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which took effect in October, permits a single government minister to declare that information posted online is “false,” and to order the content’s “correction” or removal if deemed to be in the public interest.

“Singapore’s long intolerance of free expression virtually ensures the online falsehoods law will be used to silence dissenters,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The law’s mere existence has already led critics of the government to self-censor online. Singapore’s trading partners should tell the government that every new restraint on free expression makes the country a less hospitable place to invest and do business.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the Chinese government, which depends on repression to stay in power, is carrying out the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades. He finds that Beijing’s actions both encourage and gain support from autocratic populists around the globe, while Chinese authorities use their economic clout to deter criticism from other governments. It is urgent to resist this assault, which threatens decades of progress on human rights and our future.

The online falsehoods law applies to digital content that is accessible in Singapore regardless of where the content was posted and to platforms such as WhatsApp and Signal. It provides criminal penalties for failure to comply with such orders. The law was first invoked in November for comments posted on social media that questioned the independence of state investment firms.

Singapore authorities also use existing laws to penalize peaceful expression and protest, with activists, lawyers, and online media facing prosecution, civil defamation suits, and threats of contempt of court charges. In April, Jolovan Wham, an activist, and John Tan, an opposition politician, were fined S$5,000 (US$3,620) each for “scandalizing the judiciary” on social media in violation of Singapore’s broad contempt laws.

Terry Xu, editor of The Online Citizen, one of Singapore’s few alternative news sites, is facing both criminal and civil defamation charges for material published on the platform. In September, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong sued Xu for civil defamation after The Online Citizen published claims made against Lee by his siblings about the disposition of the home of his father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Singapore’s law defines an assembly extremely broadly, and those who fail to obtain the required permits face criminal charges. Wham was convicted in January of violating the Public Order Act by permitting Joshua Wong, a Hong Kong citizen, to participate in an indoor conference via Skype without first obtaining a police permit. He was sentenced to 16 days in jail or a fine of S$3,200 (US$2,357). In October, the High Court dismissed Wham’s appeal.

Singapore retains the death penalty, which is mandated for many drug offenses and certain other crimes. There is little transparency on the timing of executions, which often take place with short notice. While the number of those executed in 2019 is uncertain, a Malaysian man was executed in March despite pending petitions for clemency, and another Malaysian man was executed in November. The Law and Home Affairs Ministries strongly defended the country’s use of the death penalty in response to calls for clemency by Malaysian officials. Ten people were notified in July that their clemency petitions had been rejected.

Singapore criminalizes consensual sexual relations between men under criminal code section 377A, and systematically censors or severely restricts any positive media or public depiction of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In November, the government defended the constitutionality of section 377A to the court hearing three constitutional challenges to the law.

Foreign migrant workers also face labor rights abuses and exploitation through debts owed to recruitment agents, non-payment of wages, restrictions on movement, confiscation of passports, and sometimes physical and sexual abuse. In June, Singapore was one of only six countries to abstain from a new International Labour Organization convention against violence and discrimination in the workplace.

*The above is the latest country report on Singapore from Human Rights Watch, published 14 Jan 2020.

 

 

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13 Responses to “Human Rights Watch: New ‘Online Falsehoods’ Law Further Curbs Rights”

  • mike:

    This law will be there forever until another majority government repeals it.
    It can be abused by any gov of the day.

    Argue of human rights is pointless. 70% gave the power

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  • Great Asia:

    Many Singaporeans are angmoh worshipping shallow monkeys. These shallow monkeys don’t know that many of these Human Rights NGOs are funded by the US government to do dirty businesses for the former across the world. Because it inconvenient for the American politicians to so, Hong Kong is a reason example.

    Syria war and Arab spring are two good examples.

    Most people in these NGOs have blood of children, women and other innocent people on their hands.

    Remind you, Hong Kong has mighty China behind it, evil angmohs do dare to more than what they are doing now. But Singapore is different, we can be made to become another Syria.

    Ha ha ha!

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  • REGIME CHANGE is the solution:

    POFMA will be removed after REGIME CHANGE that makes Singapore a REAL democracy.

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  • TruBlu:

    POFMA is going to protect wrong-doers as they can use it to justify their errant conduct or actions.

    No criticisms are allowed,only praises are accepted even if such praises are basically FALSE?

    ASK THE PBMs n BBMs if they have not been telling LIES in order to gain favour?

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  • Bapak:

    Can the Human Rights Watch put up a detailed report on Cold Storage – lock-up without trial. Put that bugger in international trial. If found guilty, dig up & cane backside.

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  • Be prepared:

    Nothings gonna change if PAP is in power.
    Huge glaring reasons to VTO.

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  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Human RIGHTS entered the Evil Mind of a man who was a trait** and coward working for the enemy in WW2 during the Japanese Occupation…

    He put into Practice what he saw and learned from the Evil Imperial army of Japan and atrocities committed…

    Difference??? he did it the LEEgal Way and left behind an Evil LEEgacy to be followed through by his Dynasty…Destroy the Dynasty…

    and…Legal Human Rights will return

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  • PAP CLOSE DOWN:

    Spore another ang mo controlled country?

    Great Asia:
    Many Singaporeans are angmoh worshipping shallow monkeys. These shallow monkeys don’t know that many of these Human Rights NGOs are funded by the US government to do dirty businesses for the former across the world. Because it inconvenient for the American politicians to so, Hong Kong is a reason example.

    Syria war and Arab spring are two good examples.

    Most people in these NGOs have blood of children, women and other innocent people on their hands.

    Remind you, Hong Kong has mighty China behind it, evil angmohs do dare to more than what they are doing now. But Singapore is different, we can be made to become another Syria.

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • PAP CLOSE DOWN:

    Those ang mos come here tour are the backpacking boh lui types.

    Great Asia:
    Many Singaporeans are angmoh worshipping shallow monkeys. These shallow monkeys don’t know that many of these Human Rights NGOs are funded by the US government to do dirty businesses for the former across the world. Because it inconvenient for the American politicians to so, Hong Kong is a reason example.

    Syria war and Arab spring are two good examples.

    Most people in these NGOs have blood of children, women and other innocent people on their hands.

    Remind you, Hong Kong has mighty China behind it, evil angmohs do dare to more than what they are doing now. But Singapore is different, we can be made to become another Syria.

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Crooked PAP:

    /// Singapore was one of only six countries to abstain from a new International Labour Organization convention against violence and discrimination in the workplace. ///

    Can the Worker’s party raise a question in next Parliament sitting for Josephine Teo to explain why Singapore abstained on the ILO convention ?

    There is already discrimination at workplace for Singaporeans, as more FT become HR Managers. PAP Govt is closing its eyes on this matter to make Singaporeans to become coolies to FTs.

    Its so sickening to be treated as 2nd class citizens in your own country.

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  • @Great Asia at Hong Kong?:

    “He who attends to his greater self becomes a great man, and he who attends to his smaller self becomes a small man.
    The great man is he who does not lose his child’s-heart.”

    (The Second Sage, Mencius)

    Never has a man who has bent himself been able to make others straight.

    GD Star Rating
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  • Sinkie:

    PAP elites’ withholding (refusal to give something that is due) our CPF savings after 55 against our wish to retire is also a gross human right violation !

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  • Referendum #1:

    mike:
    This law will be there forever until another majority government repeals it.
    It can be abused by any gov of the day.

    Argue of human rights is pointless. 70% gave the power

    POFMA is to protect the indians, just like the silly multiracial policy in your country requested by the indian politicians to protect them, so they can continue with their ‘motives’.

    might want to take notes:

    Your recent blood bank data….could it be stolen by indian doctors, indian lab technicians and IT etc to create new virus aimed at Chinese, including your own??

    What percentage of cantonese, especially english-speaking cantonese women of higher education (who are more attracted to indians of english ability) work closely with these bisexual indian men? Make sure these silly women don’t get cancelled after used by these indian FTs. News media of ALL languages in Singapore hire lots of these cantonese women from Malaysia and HK and Ausi will listen to indian politicians if citizenship is promised.

    POFMA, does it have the ‘ability’ to protect the data over the net…i.e: will those IT in POFMA manupilate words or change words to frame others or backstabbing, indian style??

    GD Star Rating
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