Should S’poreans be concerned about a “fake news’ law?
I refer to Sulaiman Daud’s article “We hope the Select Committee on fake news pays attention to NMP Kok Heng Leun’s speech” (Mothership, Jan 12).
It states that “We hope the Select Committee on fake news pays attention to NMP Kok Heng Leun’s speech
The NMP with the arts background went against the grain and raised some meaningful concerns.
So now we know who’s going to be on the Select Committee to investigate the problem of fake news or what has been termed “deliberate online falsehoods”
The Committee of Selection announced the names of the 10 MPs who will take part on Jan. 11. We analysed what each member brought to the table, which you can read in the article below.
A note of concern
While supportive of the motion, NMP and theatre veteran Kok Heng Leun raised a number of concerns that are worth looking at more in-depth.
1. Difference between falsehoods and errors?
He began by saying that the Select Committee should not focus on errors made when one party has an honest belief in the facts, but instead on deliberate, malicious falsehoods.
He mentioned that in the UK, there was a call from Parliament for the public to define fake news, and one comment stuck with him.
“Where does biased but legitimate commentary shade into propaganda and lies?”
Kok mentioned that as the Government has advocated for a more active citizenry, with more Singaporeans speaking up through online platforms, it should take care not to silence dissenting voices.
“We do not want a heavy-handed approach that would rule out constructive, though at times disagreeable voices.”
2. Strike a balance
Kok said that if new legislation is introduced, it needs to balance the interests of protecting national security and preserving public order, with the interests of:
- Enabling individuals to have meaningful discussions, including on government policies, without fear of having action taken against them.
- Enabling the media, both professional and citizen journalists, to report on such issues of concern.”
I agree wholeheartedly and 100 per cent that we direly need a ‘fake news” law.
After all, we are already ranked 151st in the world for press freedom and we already have the following restrictions which arguably, curtails the freedom of expression:-
… “Seditious tendency 3.—(1) A seditious tendency is a tendency —