Select committee on online falsehoods amend summary of evidence for Kirsten Han, Jolovan Wham and three others

The parliamentary committee on deliberate online falsehoods has included some of the amendments requested by freelance journalist Kirsten Han (left), activist Jolovan Wham (right) and three others.
The parliamentary committee on deliberate online falsehoods has included some of the amendments requested by freelance journalist Kirsten Han (left), activist Jolovan Wham (right) and three others.PHOTOS: GOV.SG, WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - The parliamentary committee on deliberate online falsehoods has made some of the changes requested by freelance journalist Kirsten Han, activist Jolovan Wham and three others to the summary of evidence they gave at last month's public hearings.

The new version can be seen on the Parliament website.

In a statement on Monday (April 9), the select committee also pointed out that Ms Han had written to it separately, inquiring if the original version of the summary would be taken down while the amendments were being considered.

"The committee notes that her position on the summary of her own testimony is in stark contrast to the view she expressed before the select committee on the takedown of online falsehoods," it noted.

Ms Han, it added, had suggested during the hearing that nothing should be taken down, save as a last resort.

In a Facebook post on Monday night, Ms Han argued that it was important to distinguish between legally mandated take-downs and voluntary retractions. “The key is in where the power lies, and who gets to exercise power,” she said.

She added that she had asked if the summary could be retracted while the Select Committee looked into her complaint.

“My request certainly had no power to compel the Committee to remove the summary, and as events have shown, the Committee was free to disregard my request. The same cannot be said for a legally enforceable take-down order.”

She also said she is opposed to measures that would give a sole body the power and authority to decide what content can or cannot be accessed by the population.

The select committee said the requests for changes to the summaries were made after the hearings ended on March 30.

It received e-mails from five witnesses asking for the summaries of evidence,  published on  the Parliament website, to be amended.

The committee explained the summaries were produced as working notes for reference each day.

Its analysis and report will be based on the "full verbatim transcripts of the hearings, as well as the written submissions".

It also pointed out that all witnesses were told they can check the transcripts of their own appearances.

 
 

Ms Han had asked for 11 amendments to the summary, the committee said. Of these, five are reflected in the new version.

Mr Wham was concerned that the written representation of Community Action Network was not taken into account, the committee said. "Written representations will be taken into account in the committee's report and analysis."

Mr Wham later disputed on Facebook the committee's account of his complaint. He told The Straits Times on Tuesday that the statement's claim that he was "concerned that the written representation of Community Action Network was not taken into account" was false. 

What he said in two complaints to the Select Committee was that he was unable to expand on the submission at the hearing, and not that the points in the submission would not be considered. 

He plans to file another complaint to the Select Committee on Tuesday, he added.

The Office of the Clerk of Parliament, which had been issuing statements on behalf of the committee, said that it stands by its statement.

Mr Wham's request for an additional point to be inserted into the summary has been done, it added.

Former website editor Howard Lee did not ask for any changes to the existing statements, but wanted five additional points to be included. These are now in the new version.

The Online Citizen chief editor Terry Xu asked for three changes, of which two are inserted. 

Mr Gaurav Keerthi, founder of debating websites Dialectic.sg and Confirm.sg, wanted nine changes. The new version has five of them.

The majority of the 65 people who gave testimony during the eight days of hearing had no issues with the summary of evidence.

Lawyer Zhulkarnain Rahim said: "Although it doesn't cover everything that I had clarified during the questioning at the hearing, the summary essentially covers some of the main points that I made."

Public hearings to fight online falsehoods: Read the submissions here and watch more videos.