Fake news law

SDP's bid to get correction order cancelled rejected

MOM says party's application did not provide sufficient grounds; party has 14 days to file appeal with High Court

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo has rejected the Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) application to cancel three correction notices issued under the fake news law, saying it did not provide "sufficient grounds".

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday said it received the SDP's application last Friday.

"After careful consideration, the Minister for Manpower is of the view that the application does not provide sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the correction directions. The Minister for Manpower has therefore decided to refuse the application," the ministry said, adding that the party had been notified of the decision.

Responding on Facebook last night, the SDP said: "MOM's non-answer leaves the SDP no choice but to pursue the matter in court."

The SDP was issued with the correction directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) for its Facebook posts and an online article.

It had, on Dec 2 last year, begun running a series of sponsored posts on Facebook, including two about local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).

Both posts were linked to an article on the SDP website titled "SDP Population Policy: Hire S'poreans First, Retrench S'poreans Last", with each accompanied by a different infographic.

One contained a graph labelled "local PMET employment" along with a downward arrow, while the other contained text that said "local PMET unemployment has increased".

On Dec 14, the ministry, at the instruction of its minister, asked the SDP to correct the posts and the article. It took issue with two claims it said were falsehoods, including the graph in the Facebook post depicting the number of Singaporean PMETs employed as having fallen sharply.

The ministry's correction also stated that a sentence in the online article, claiming that a rising proportion of Singaporean PMETs are getting retrenched, was false. In response, the SDP said it had relied on media reports to make its claim.

The next day, the ministry said the statistics reported by the media meant that among all retrenched locals, the number of PMETs among them had risen.

 
 
 
 

It added: "This is fundamentally different from what the SDP says, which is that among Singapore PMETs, the number getting retrenched has risen."

Last Thursday, the SDP defended the posts and article, saying the statements it made "are, in fact, true and correct".

It argued that the MOM had accused it of making statements it did not make. Also, the ministry had used different sets of data from those the party had used to label its posts as false, the party said.

In its application to the ministry, the party also accused the Manpower Minister of applying Pofma retroactively to the article, which was dated June 8 last year. Pofma came into effect on Oct 2 last year.

But the ministry said yesterday that this is "misconstrued".

"In particular, the article was hyperlinked in the SDP Facebook post and sponsored post, hence it was actively being publicised as late as Dec 2, 2019," it added.

The SDP has 14 days to file an appeal with the High Court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2020, with the headline 'SDP's bid to get correction order cancelled rejected'. Print Edition | Subscribe