The elections in Singapore are rigged

Singapore Passes Fake News Law

For two years, politicians in Singapore debated the law. In the end, the result was clear: 72 MPs voted in favor, only nine against. The "law for the protection of online counterfeiting and manipulation" provides, among other things, that traditional media as well as Internet corporations must remove articles upon government request. Under certain circumstances they should also be able to be compelled to publish "correction notices". The government itself can order the deletion. In extreme cases, they face a fine of more than 450,000 euros and up to ten years in prison.

Ministers decide what is wrong

Specifically, it is about content on the Internet that contains false information about Singapore or that could influence elections. The project also affects social networks such as Facebook, Google and Twitter, all of which have large offices in Singapore. Opponents of the law in parliament warned that the project would give the government too much power. Ministers could now decide for themselves which information they consider to be incorrect. In doing so, they could ignore the public interest.

City-state of Singapore: View from the "Singapore Flyer" ferris wheel to Marina Bay

The human rights organization Human Rights Watch warned of massive cuts that could reach far beyond the country. "This is a disaster for the people of Singapore" and a "hard blow" to the independence of news portals, said Phil Robertson, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. In a global comparison of "Reporters Without Borders" with the level of freedom of the press, Singapore ranks far behind in 151st place out of 180.

"Good for the country"

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defended the move last month. Many countries have already implemented such laws and Singapore finally debated it for two years, Lee said at a conference in Malaysia. He rejected criticism that the law could restrict freedom of speech. "Our use of the media has been criticized many times, but what we have done has been good for Singapore," he added. The new law is also a step forward for the country.

"Good for the country": Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defends the law

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, on the other hand, warned at the same conference that such laws are a "double-edged sword". You could be abused by governments to stay in power. A law against "fake news" is also in force in Malaysia. It was passed by Prime Minister Mohamad's previous government. After the change of government in the 2018 election, he promised to renew the law. So far, however, there has been no majority for this.

pgr / hk (ap, dpa)