SDP to argue against fake news law directives before apex court

(PHOTO: Yahoo News Singapore file photo, Facebook / SDP)

SINGAPORE — The Singapore Democratic Party was on Wednesday (26 February) granted permission to argue before the Court of Appeal at a later date against correction orders issued under the fake news laws.

The High Court had on 5 February dismissed the party’s challenge to the correction orders in what was the first legal challenge under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) since it was passed in Parliament on 8 May last year and came into effect on 2 October.

In dismissing the SDP’s case, Justice Ang Cheng Hock had ruled that there was a proper basis for all three correction orders directed against SDP, as the statements made by the opposition party were “false in the face of statistical evidence against them”. The party thus cannot remove the correction notices it was required to put up alongside the relevant online posts.

The SDP later said in a statement that it was “very disappointed” with the verdict. “We reiterate our case which we argued in Court: POFMA must only be applied to clear cut cases of falsehoods, not for interpretations of statistical data,” it said in the statement after Justice Ang’s ruling.

The party then applied for leave - or permission - to appeal against the High Court decision, which was granted on Wednesday.

Background on the case

The three correction directives were issued against SDP over two Facebook posts and an online article by the party titled, “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”.

The posts on SDP’s Facebook page, dated 30 November and 2 December last year, had contained links to the article, which was published on 8 June last year.

On 14 December, the manpower ministry issued a correction direction under POFMA, saying that the article and the two Facebook posts falsely claimed that local PMET (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians) retrenchment has been going up and PMET employment has gone down.

The SDP complied with the request to add a correction note to each of the Facebook posts and the article, which read in part, “This post contains a false statement of fact. There is no rising trend of local PMET retrenchment. Local PMET employment has in fact increased consistently and continues to do so today.”

But on 2 January, the SDP asked Manpower Minister Josephine Teo to retract the directives and issue an “immediate, unambiguous and public apology” over the matter.

The party subsequently applied to MOM on 3 January to have the correction orders cancelled, but Teo rejected it. The SDP then filed its court challenge on 8 January.

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