Ruling party PAP government’s website Mothership.sg was forced to apologise after publishing a fake news alleging Presidential candidate Salleh Marican for having made a comment on the Muslim headscarf hijab worn by Halimah Yacob. The government website was trying to smear the character of independent Presidential candidate to give government-endorsed candidate Halimah Yacob an edge.
A spokesperson for Salleh Marican told state media Straits Times that Mothership.sg’s fake news damaged the independent candidate’s reputation:
“When Mothership took it upon themselves to say that Mr Salleh said this, it became a reality. It became a problem. Mothership validated it. The page itself never said the comments were by Mr Salleh, but it’s easy to misunderstand when the page name means that people could mistakenly think it was an official campaign page. We don’t want that.”
Mothership.sg’s managing editor Chan Cheow Pong, a former reporter with state media Singapore Press Holdings, said he initially only edited his fake news and eventually deleted the article: “We initially corrected the article by striking the entire text out, as we knew it was pretty much wrong in its entirety. We wanted to be transparent in admitting to our mistake. However, we subsequently ascertained that we should delete the article and post completely, so that no one else would be mistaken in reading it, and also to protect Mr Salleh’s reputation.”
The Singapore Police turned a blind eye to the incident and did not issue any formal warning. Law Minister K Shanmugam singled out States Times Review as “fake news” and vowed to make the website “feel the pain”. However, the esteemed minister was unable to come out with any evidence of STR publishing fake news. Rather, Straits Times and other government-regulated media like Mothership.sg have repeatedly published fake news with no actions taken from the authorities.