Below is an excerpt of Ravi Philemon’s FB post, in which he voiced his concerns, as should all Singaporeans, that the POFMA had been invoked three times, and all three times are for articles that are critical of the government.
I am concerned that there have been 3 instances of Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) being invoked – all against articles critical of the government. My view is that POFMA was indeed passed ahead of a General Election which is looming. The Government has a track-record of enacting laws targeting online criticisms and ahead of elections for the last 10 years.
Prior to the 2011 General Election, the Cooling-Off Day law was passed, which the Opposition decried gave the ruling party an unfair advantage. In the lead up to this same election, a leading online socio-political news website, The Online Citizen, was also gazetted as a political organisation.
Before the 2015 General Election, a new licensing framework for news websites was introduced. This new licensing framework subjected online news sites to rules such as a $50,000 performance bond and a 24 hours take-down clause of content which is in breach of the standards at the discretion of the Government.
These examples show that the Government does act to reign-in criticisms, which are most strident in in the online space, ahead of an election. But alternative news sites have forced the mainstream media to be more balanced in their reporting. Social media has also allowed for issues to be debated, analysed, rebutted and transmitted almost instantly. It allows for all views to be heard and gives everyone an equal voice.
As Singaporeans awaken to a new political assertiveness, social media will be the platform citizens who want more accountability and transparency use. The provisions of POFMA are too broad to curb such assertiveness and it may be misused for political reasons.