POFMA orders: Court, not minister, determines truth, says AGC

·Assistant News Editor
·2-min read
Singapore Supreme Court building. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)
Supreme Court building. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Under the Protection of Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), it is the court, and not a minister, which ultimately determines the truth or falsity of a statement, said the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Saturday (9 October).

Alluding to "some reports in the media" on the Court of Appeal's recent landmark judgement in relation to three Correction Directions (CD) issued to the Singapore Democratic Party in 2019, the AGC said the reports had given the impression that it is a minister that determines the truth or falsity of a statement of fact.

"This is incorrect," said an AGC spokesperson, stressing that its consistent position has been that it is the court that does so. "That is why there is an appeal mechanism in POFMA. The courts are the final arbiters, as the government has repeatedly stated, and as the statute provides."

The CDs issued in 2019 had pertained to falsehoods in SDP’s Facebook posts and an article on its website titled “SDP Population Policy: Hire S’poreans First, Retrench S’poreans last”.

The subject statement identified in three of the CDs was “Local PMET retrenchment has been increasing” (first subject statement). An additional subject statement identified in the third CD was “Local PMET employment has gone down” (second subject statement).

The SDP applied to the High Court, and thereafter appealed to the CA to set aside the CDs. On Friday, the CA upheld all three CDs in respect of the first subject statement, and dismissed the SDP’s appeal in this regard.

However, the CA allowed a part of the SDP’s appeal with respect to the third CD regarding the second subject statement. It found that the term “Local PMET employment” used in the infographic in SDP’s 2 December 2019 Facebook is understood as referring only to Singapore citizen professional, manager, executive and technician (PMETs), instead of both Singapore citizens and permanent residents.

On the same day that the judgement was issued, the Minister for Manpower (MOM) issued a new CD to the SDP over a false statement of fact in SDP’s 2 December 2019 Facebook post.

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