Now living in the U.S., Singapore poet Jee Leong Koh puts out a newsletter called Singapore Unbound. In addition to bringing attention to the arts, Jee frequently writes about civil rights. Here is an excerpt from a recent column of his:
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act tabled in Singapore’s Parliament on Monday threatens to restrict free speech in the country even further. It effectively gives any Minister the power to decide what is fact and to demand corrections or removals of statements that he deems to be against the public interest. If passed, the Act will not just create a Ministry of Truth, so ironically named in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, but will turn all agents of the Singapore government into Ministries of Truth.
For now, this bill has been tabled, but it remains a subject of concern to human rights organizations. Its ramifications and possible effects are discussed in detail here. The following photo of Roy Ngerngwas, a blogger sued after accusing the prime minister of misusing public funds, and excerpts are from the same article.
What’s particularly alarming about the proposal is that it can be activated by any government minister if they believe that “a false statement of fact… has been or is being communicated in Singapore” or if they feel that issuing a correction is “in the public interest.”
The proposed act is focused on Singapore, but it will cover any piece of content worldwide. While, beyond merely covering content pertinent to the security of Singapore, the harmony of its people, its national politics and services, the process can be triggered “in the interest of friendly relations of Singapore with other countries.”
There’s also a clause that covers “a diminution of public confidence in the performance of any duty or function of government” and its associated organizations.