The Singaporean government has invoked the Fake News law, formally known as Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), for the fourth time.
POFMA office was instructed by the Ministry of Education (MoE) to direct lawyer Lim Tean to correct two Facebook posts, allegedly containing false figures. This is the fourth time the law has been invoked since its inception on October 2, this year.
Lawyer Lim Tean directed to correct Facebook posts
On December 12, Tean put up a post on Facebook, in which he stated that the Singaporean government spends $238 million/year on scholarships for foreign students; as against $167 million, being spent on bursaries and grants for Singaporeans.
He received a notice from Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) office at 9:05 am, on Monday (December 16). According to it, Tean had made false claims regarding spending on foreign and national students.
"MOE's annual budget is $13B, almost all of which is spent on Singapore citizens. The $167M cited by Mr Lim refers only to bursaries for Singaporean tertiary students, and grossly understates MOE's total spending on Singaporean citizens for education", the statement read. Hence, it said that the figures "$167M and $238M are therefore not comparable".
It further stated that no national student is deprived of a place by a foreign student. "Having a small proportion of foreign students in our schools and institutions brings diversity into classrooms and helps our students develop cross-cultural competencies, a key skill in today's world", the statement read.
'Cry baby legislation'
Lim Tean referred to POFMA, as a "cry baby legislation", which should be repealed as soon as a non-People's Action Party (PAP) comes to power. He alleged that the law is used by the government "ahead of the upcoming GE [general elevtion] to silence its Opponents and chill public discussion of unpopular government policies".
He took to Facebook and stated that anyone who reads his posts understood that he was talking about " amount of money spent on grants and scholarships and not the overall spending on ALL Singaporean students".
He is considering legal options against the notice, the Facebook post read.
Lim Tean is a lawyer and leader of the political party 'People's Voice'. He's representing blogger Leong Sze Hian in a defamation case, that involves PM Lee Hsien Loong, CNA reported.
On December 14, POFMA directed the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) to correct two Facebook posts and an article on its website that are related to manpower issues. On November 28, the States Times Review was ordered to correct posts, as they 'contained falsehood and affected the public's interests'.
The law that came into effect on October 2, this year, with the aim to fight 'Fake news' was invoked for the first time, against opposition party member Bowyer, over his Facebook post, in which he questioned the independence of state-owned companies Temasek and GIC.