New Naratif’s Response to the POFMA Correction Direction

Singapore’s Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, has ordered a Correction Direction issued under Section 11 of the Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (No. 18 of 2019) (POFMA) to New Naratif regarding Episode 8 of The Show with PJ Thum: “How bad laws are created and abused in Singapore (A POFMA case study)”. The Correction Notice states that: “This video contains several false and misleading statements”. 

We have complied with the legal directive to display the Correction Notice on YouTube, Facebook, and the New Naratif website, because failure to comply without this Direction without reasonable excuse is an offense under Section 15 of the Act. We will be contesting the directive through the appropriate channels.

While we disagree with the Correction Direction, we were heartened to receive these two written clarifications from the POFMA Office: 

  1. “POFMA applies only to false statements of fact (Section 2(2) of POFMA). It does not apply to opinions.”
  2. “Criticisms which are opinions and not statements of fact are not covered by POFMA (Section 2(2)(a) of POFMA). Criticisms which are based on true facts, are also not covered by POFMA.”

As such, New Naratif would like to clarify our opinions on the POFMA law, on the understanding that these are not subject to a POFMA Direction:

  1. As stated in our video, we are 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. 
  2. While the government assures us that criticism is acceptable in Singapore, with regret, we do not believe it. 
  3. In our opinion, POFMA Correction Directions like the one we received 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, as we described in episode 5 of “The Show with PJ Thum” (“How the PAP Government Abuses “Rule of Law” to Control Singapore”, 
  4. We condemn what is, in our opinion, an unjust and undemocratic law and call for the POFMA law to be revised in consultation with the general public. 
  5. It is our opinion that both the Minister for Law and New Naratif would benefit from debate about this issue. We renew our invitation to Mr Shanmugam to have a debate over the impact of the POFMA law on freedom of expression in Singapore.

New Naratif is a movement for democracy, freedom of information, and freedom of expression in Southeast Asia. We build a better Southeast Asia by empowering Southeast Asians with the knowledge and skills they need to address our shared challenges and take collective action. Learn more about us here and browse an introduction to our work here. At a time when freedom of expression is more under threat than ever, we ask that you support our movement by becoming a member or donating. We need to raise US$75,000 by 30 June 2020 to survive.

For more on freedom of expression, disinformation, and media literacy in Singapore, please see:

For more on politics and the suppression of legitimate political activity in Singapore, please see:

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