MOT issues Pofma correction direction over video of South Asians at Changi Airport

A correction direction has been issued to the "Singapore Incidents" pages. PHOTO: CIVIL AVIATION AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Transport (MOT) on Friday (May 7) invoked Singapore's fake news law in response to a video circulating on social media showing a large group of South Asian travellers purportedly arriving at Changi Airport despite travel restrictions.

A correction direction has been issued to the "Singapore Incidents" pages on Facebook and Instagram, which had both posted the false video, said MOT in a statement.

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung had instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue the direction.

These videos, put up on May 5, contained a watermark stating the date of the clip as May 5 and the location as Changi Airport.

MOT noted that a clock in the video indicated the time as 2.53pm - and that there were no flights from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka arriving at Changi Airport between 8am and 3.30pm on May 5.

The ministry added that the passengers were depicted walking past renovation hoarding in Terminal 1 - which had been removed on April 5.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) had made similar points about the video a day earlier.

MOT noted that since 11.59pm on April 23, long-term visit pass holders and short-term visitors with recent travel history to India have not been allowed to enter or transit through Singapore. From 11.59pm on May 1, this measure was extended to visitors with recent travel history to Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"While there are still passenger flights arriving in Singapore from South Asia, these flights carry primarily returning Singapore citizens and permanent residents; cargo; or fly in empty to pick up passengers in Singapore who are returning to South Asia," said MOT.

"For example, on May 5, there were five passenger flights arriving in Singapore from South Asia, carrying a total of 50 passengers, all of whom were returning Singapore citizens or permanent residents."

MOT added that all such passengers arriving from South Asian countries are currently subject to stringent border control and health measures. They are escorted through Changi Airport separately from other travellers.

Under Singapore's fake news law, parties who have received correction directions have to carry a correction notice stating that their posts contain falsehoods.

Both the Singapore Incidents Instagram and Facebook pages have complied. The video also appears to have been removed from both.

It posted an apology on the latter at about 5pm on Thursday, following CAAS' remarks. The Facebook page admitted that the date in the video was wrong and that it was its "fault for not validating" the information. It added that it "deeply regretted" giving false information.

But the Singapore Incidents page also provided links to two individual Facebook accounts, saying it had taken the video from them.

MOT said it was aware of other similar videos spreading on social media. It urged the public not to spread unverified information, and to rely on trusted official websites and social media pages.

For facts of the case, people should refer to the Factually article "Corrections and Clarifications Regarding Falsehoods About Arrival of Travellers from South Asia" at this website.

This correction direction comes after Pofma was invoked on the Facebook pages of Goh Meng Seng People's Power Party and Goh Meng Seng (Satu Singapura), as well as on the Singapore Uncensored website, for unsubstantiated claims about adverse reactions to Covid-19 vaccines. Those were the first correction directions issued since July last year.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.