Recognising the political damage by articles of States Times Review, Law Minister K Shanmugam will be raising a motion known as the “green paper” next Wednesday (Jan 10) to appoint a Select Committee to shut down the Australia-based indepedent news site. This “green paper” will be the first in 30 years, with the last raised in 1988.
The Singapore government has also put in place an elaborated scheme to make themselves look democratic and acting in public’s interests. According to state media Straits Times, the process to legislate new censorship laws will be done through two committees. The “Select Committee” of 9 PAP MPs and 1 WP MP will be chaired by PAP Deputy Speaker Charles Chong, which in turn will be appointed by a “Committee of Selection” under PAP Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin, who will be indirectly appointed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The Select Committee will then make “recommendations” which will then be easily approved by the PAP-dominated Parliament.
A spokesperson for the government told state media that a Select Committee will listen to the public before recommending new laws:
“A Select Committee process provides a platform to study the problem carefully, to talk to experts and other stakeholders, and to involve members of the public.”
The censorship law will be directed at “online falsehoods” and foreign news sites, which the Ministry of Law claimed in the “green paper” will “undermine” Singapore’s brand of “democracy”:
“Singapore should be prepared ahead of time for the real and serious challenges posed by online falsehoods. There is a high risk of foreign interference through such falsehoods, and added that Singapore is an attractive target, being among the most open and globally connected countries in the world. It is also vulnerable, being a multi-racial and religiously diverse society, said the paper. While discourse and debate should remain open, dissemination of deliberate falsehoods, particularly if this is done covertly, attacks the very heart of democracy by preventing constructive discourse. With Singapore’s strict rules against foreign interference in its politics, through existing laws such as the Political Donations Act and Societies Act, the same rules should apply to cyberspace.”
Government university academics have all voiced out supporting the new censorship laws, praising the “green paper” as “consultative”. Fake political analyst featured by Straits Times, Felix Tan, claimed:
“I think it’s becoming more open and gives people a voice in policy-making, rather than being done in a top-down manner. The push-back from the public has been quite strong in recent years… The Government is putting out a more consultative approach to engage the public.”
SUTD law professor Lim Sun Sun also poured praises for the Law Ministry:
“I think that there is interest to make the process more open and consultative because the online space is everyone’s. The committee’s public hearings and consultation process will help people understand the influence that falsehoods may have on society.”