S$50,000 bond for anyone who writes a blog on current affairs, Cooling Off day, communication stop order, 24-hour take-down notice. Singapore’s existing media censorship is already considered third world and the dictatorship now have the audacity to take a step further crying for more censorship?
Let’s take their favourite example of The Real Singapore as their textbook example of “deliberate online falsehoods”.
From a first person witness as a former editor of TRS, I remain convinced my fellow ex-editors, Ai Takagi and Yang Kaiheng, were wrongly convicted of sedition. It happened on the afternoon when several commentators wrote on the offending article stating that there is no Filipino family involved according to an anonymous reader tip-off, and the police subsequently posted a clarification and warning on the same day. The article was then subsequently edited with the inaccurate portion removed. This however did not satiate the Singapore government, who jumped on to the opportunity of arresting the two TRS editors as soon as they landed in Singapore.
I was also called up for questioning by the Special Investigation Section. The Investigation Officer, Roy, knocking profusely on my door one early morning and with two other policemen escorted me to the Cantonment police station. They were insistent I go with them, even though I said I would like to re-arrange their kopi session invite. The police IO first introduced me about the very special Special Investigation Section, on how they are supposed to investigate murder and robbery cases – an indirect intimidatig warning of how serious they are taking the matter.
I knew at the back of my mind this is what political persecution feels like. I played along and cooperated. From his line of questioning, it was clear that the police are more interested in the funding source of TRS than the actual events that happened surrounding the “fake news” article. There was no fake news, it was a guise to shut down TRS.
The Select Committee spoke of the dangers of falsehoods and as the name suggest, “selected” “witnesses” to support their censorship agenda. The Ukranian’s warning of people shooting each other with machine guns just because “the TV told them to do so” is far-fetched, Singapore has a state-controlled TV and there is no gun rights. Inviting Indonesians to give a statement on fake news claiming their Indonesian President Jokowi is a Chinese Christian again is yet another ridiculous example of the Select Committee choosing biased witnesses to stand.
What really peeved me was the invitation of local academics from government universities. These fake experts are just another propagandist working under SPH, they are and have always been politically biased. Singapore’s education institutions on social and governance studies are notorious for siding with their paymasters. How would anyone take their views seriously is beyond my comprehension. The result speaks for itself: none of the over 10 government school academics objected against new censorship laws. Everyone agrees in unison and it is just a waste of time interviewing them one by one.
There is one obvious aim of the Select Committee, and that is to introduce new government controls over the internet. They want to ban bad news by labelling them as “fake news”, so they could keep the entire Singapore island a giant echo chamber. Stopping negative news is just a start, trust me. The next step is to stop criticisms. The Singapore dictatorship is encroaching onto the people’s freedom inch by inch, and it is only sooner or later they ban criticisms from the people, in the name of “national security”. The ruling party government is after all a dictatorship, leaders like K Shanmugam and Lee Hsien Loong can’t stand people speaking negatively of them. They are retiring and they want Singaporeans to praise their names like Lee Kuan Yew.
Even if one is genuinely concerned about “deliberate falsehoods” and the “sky is going to fall” belief is coming true, I would never trust the PAP government administer it. The dictatorship openly corrupts by legislating their corruption. There is no democratic process, the system cannot be trusted and it is foolish of anyone expecting the ruling party dictatorship to be entrusted with power to control the media.
Rather, instead of dealing with deliberate online falsehoods, the Singapore government will issue and propagate it’s own state propaganda falsehoods. This can be seen from the lax attitude of the Singapore police dealing with falsehoods propagated by the state media, notably Straits Times that ranks 151st in the world for credibility. The new censorship law will only further empower propaganda, and widen it’s reach since there won’t be anyone around to counter propaganda and the government’s word becomes always the noble truth. The internet age opened up Singaporeans’ minds to accepting that the government can never be always trusted, what the Select Committee hope to achieve is to reverse it.