The Online Citizen’s editor, Terry Xu, seems to be finding a lot of trouble for himself lately. He posted about Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) which just came into effect from 2 Oct 2019 and claimed that it could be misused during the election period.
Xu assumed that a minister can issue a take-down order against any site during the GE and choose to address it only after the election.
[J]ust by appeal to the minister and setting the hearing date, it would take eight days and in practice, it would likely be nine or ten as it would depend on what time the takedown order is served…
The Singapore General Election is typically just nine days long from the point of nomination day to polling day.
So effectively, if someone whistleblows during an election or just prior… the ruling party can throw a takedown or correction order on the story or statement by the whistleblower, only for the story to be proven correct after the election is won without the voters knowing what actually happened.
What actually happened was that he had made a wrong assumption. It is ok because it is not unexpected of him to do that anyway.
The Ministry of Communications and Information has clarified that Xu’s post and a related TOC article by Ghui are baseless. The fact is, during the GE, Ministers will cease to exercise their powers under the POFMA.
Instead, senior civil servants are appointed as the Ministers’ alternate authorities for the election period.
The robust safeguards on the use of POFMA will continue to be in place during the elections.
Xu has read the clarification but disagreed that he was spreading falsehoods as he was only voicing his “opinion”. Opinions are not covered by the POFMA. So convenient.
TOC has no doubt contributed a lot to the alternative media scene in Singapore but it is disappointing to see it drop to such a pathetic standard under the lead of Terry Xu. As a Chief Editor of a big news site, he should know the difference between voicing an opinion and making allegations. If he has too much time on his hands, he may want to focus on preparing for his upcoming lawsuit instead of going on a verbal diarrhoea that will only shoot himself in the foot.
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