Recently, the Singapore Parliament passed an “anti take news bill”. The ministers can now demand corrections, order the removal of any specific content and block websites that promote false news. Penalties for the media include steep fine and jail. In spite of various arguments and objections by the media houses and journalists, the Singapore parliament went ahead with the bill, ignoring the right to speak and abuse of power.

What does the law say?

The law passed to combat “fake news” has even given the government ministers the power to challenge large media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In extreme cases, the posts regarding the government ministers can also be taken down. Punishment for such activities can be a fine up to $ 735,000 and jail terms of 10 years. The debate went on for 2 days on this law. In the end, the ruling People’s Action Party won.

Did the Government pass this bill for political gains?

The Worker’s Party with only six members elected in 89 seats opposed the measure. It was clear that this act was the mean by which the dictatorial government was trying to remain in power. In its defense, the ruling government stated that the law had been introduced to target false statements and not opinions.

There remain several other facts to keep in mind such as explaining how ministers will use this new power and to create an independent council to look after the correct usage of the power. Notably, Singapore already has various laws covering libel and issues considered a threat to national security, the new law has worried large tech companies.

The Asia Internet Coalition consisting of Apple, Facebook and Google urged the government to review the measure again. K. Shanmugam, the Minister for the law said in reply that the matter was urgent and serious. Though Google proposed that they have worked towards quality journalism and fact check network.

In November, Facebook turns down to remove an article linking Singapore to a financial scandal in Malaysia. But the government said it was not true and the news spread of the company. Opponents and critics claimed that the law would grant ministers the absolute power to challenge any fact and figure. This will seize the right to speech. Singapore is ranked at 150 among the 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, but this measure might lower the ranking.

The measure named as Protection From Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill gives the government ministers the power to challenge an individual account holder or an entire social media platform guilty of issuing misleading and fake news in the public interest. Offenders could be fined or jailed. If the social network does not accept the mistake, he is free to appeal to the court for further proceedings. However, the entire process might take a lot of time. The reason of passing this bill as per the ruling party is that Singapore is a small place and rumors are easily spread. The bill seems to worry about the media and social media platform owners and users.