Singapore takes an approach that works for it, Lee Hsien Loong says on proposed fake news law

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at a joint news conference in Putrajaya on April 9, 2019. ST PHOTO: TRINNA LEONG

PUTRAJAYA - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (April 9) said the proposed law to fight online falsehoods is a significant step to tackle a serious problem that confronts many countries.

He also said Singapore will continue to take an approach that works for it.

On Monday, global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders had criticised the proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), calling the Government's approach to fake news "completely inappropriate".

"I'm not surprised that Reporters Without Borders criticises it, it criticised many things about Singapore's media management. But what we have done has worked for Singapore and it's our objective to continue to do things which will work for Singapore, and I think POFMA will be a significant step forward in this regard," said Mr Lee.

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad at Perdana Putra after their Leaders' Retreat, PM Lee said Singapore is not the only country looking at legislating on this issue.

"The problem of fake news, of deliberate false statements being proliferated online is a serious problem which confronts many countries," he said, adding that Australia, France and Germany have also passed laws to tackle the issue.

Malaysia was among the first few countries to introduce an anti-fake news law under the previous Barisan Nasional coalition.

But the new Pakatan Harapan government, led by Tun Dr Mahathir, has pledged to repeal the law although this decision has been blocked by the opposition.

"Of course, we know that the present social media can be abused quite seriously," Dr Mahathir said at the press conference.

"But when we have a law that prevents people from airing their views, then we are afraid that the government itself may abuse the law - as happened in the last government."

He added that Malaysia would not want any government "to create fake news in order to sustain themselves".

"We believe we can accept the challenges and we can handle them," he said.

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