POFMA was passed in parliament in May earlier this year. Despite what the government says about protecting citizens from fake news, it is all their way of pushing down a draconian law that has the potential to stifle and kill authentic contrarian views and any point of view that the government doesn’t agree with. Here are what other prominent academics, human rights advocates and even a former PAP MP have to say about POFMA.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch: POFMA is “hammer blow against the independence of many on-line news portals” and “will have a chilling effect on internet freedom throughout Southeast Asia”.
Inderjit Singh, Former PAP MP: “Finding the right balance between speaking out and the freedom of speech and the cost of spreading fake news is important. Without amendments, the proposed anti-fake news law would be structured in a manner that is tilted towards creating some fear that may curb freedom of expression.”
Remy Choo, founder of TOC: “POFMA is a clustered nuclear bomb and when you couple that with existing civil defamation laws, criminal defamation laws you’re really looking at potentially a death by a thousand cuts”.
Kirsten Han, Editor at New Narratif: “POFMA is thus likely to be yet another weapon in the PAP government’s arsenal against its critics…the legislation is worded broadly enough to give government ministers the option of wielding it selectively against particular targets”.
Thum Ping Tjin, Academic: “If you criticize the government, even if it’s a legitimate criticism, they can argue that criticism affects public confidence in the government. This effectively criminalizes all criticism of the government”.
Cherian George, Academic: “The very basis of POFMA overturns that, which is why academics are so upset about this. You’re undermining the very bedrock on which universities are founded, which are institutions where truth is judged on the strength of an idea, not on what the most powerful man in the room says.”
Tay Kheng Soon, Architect: “This is the key issue in the POFMA in which the fundamental flaw is that the aggrieved authority is also the judge as to whether there is deliberate falsehood or malicious intent. Whether there is malice or it is a simple expression of doubt must be left to an independent public body to decide.”