Photo of K Shanmugam from TodayOnline

In a press release by the propaganda ministry, Ministry of Communications and Information, and the Ministry of Law, a motion known as the “green paper” was raised to censor internet news in the name of fighting fake news. Titled “Deliberate Online Falsehoods: Challenges and Implications”, the “green paper” will form a special Select Committee selected by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to implement new censorship laws aimed at websites challenging state media propaganda.

The Select Committee will then legislate new censorship laws, which could take effect as soon as within the next few months since the Parliament has a 92% PAP majority. There will be no public consultation and public opinions that do not support the motion will not be considered, even though fake monologue sessions may be held.

Local websites criticising the Singapore government like TheOnlineCitizen might be shut down, and their writers arrested once they are convicted of the new censorship law. The new law is expected to protect state media Mediacorp and Singapore Press Holdings by eliminating alternative news sites. Singaporeans who actively share and comment on Facebook pages and online forums will also be included in the censorship, with penalties including a fine or a jail sentence.

Singapore’s state media is ranked 154th in the world for credibility and it’s propaganda effort has been largely diminished by independent news sites. The readership of the state media has been falling rapidly in recent years, resulting in the termination of printed circulation like Today, The New Paper and Lian He Wan Bao. The state media is the key source of fake news in Singapore, often publishing heavily-edited news to garner support for government policies.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his ruling party has been suffering rapid decline in their reputation and popularity, due to extensive coverage of current affairs news, especially train breakdowns and corruption cases. The new censorship law will remove these “negative” news and also analytical articles that do not portray the government in a favourable fashion.

According to state media CNA, the government intend to censor not only local news websites but also foreign news websites not under their jurisdiction:

“If appointed, the Select Committee will examine and report on the phenomenon of using digital technology to deliberately spread falsehoods online, the motivations and reasons for the spreading of such falsehoods, and the types of individuals and entities, both local and foreign, which engage in such activity. It will also look at the consequences that the spread of online falsehoods can have on Singapore society, including to institutions and democratic processes, and how Singapore can prevent and combat online falsehoods.  This includes the principles that should guide Singapore’s response, and any specific measures, including legislation, that should be taken.”

In 2017, Law Minister K Shanmugam singled out States Times Review and promised to make the site editor “feel the pain”.