Unhappy with a report criticising Singapore’s poor records in freedom of speech, the ruling party PAP slammed the international human rights organisation as “fake news”.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote in their report criticising the country as a repressive place that impose criminal penalties for peaceful speech. Citing The Real Singapore as an example where it’s two editors were jailed 8 and 10 months each, the HRW report confirmed that the website did not write any post encouraging any sort of public disorder, incite violence or discriminate against a particular religion or ethnic group.
Former PAP MP Vikram Nair called the report “biased and flawed”, and deemed it as “deliberate online falsehood”:
“The TRS case is a classic example of deliberate online falsehoods, which can seriously undermine societal trust, social peace. Does HRW seek to perpetuate such deliberate online falsehoods by using them as reference points?”
The PAP representative accused the HRW of being biased against the Singapore government by not using government-provided statistics that suggest Singapore has aplenty of speech freedom:
“It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the HRW report deliberately omitted material that was inconvenient to its views. The spread of deliberate falsehoods is harmful to society. The report can be easily put online, and circulated, with or without attribution and that it can influence opinions.”
Vikram Nair then said Singaporeans are no less sophisticated than himself so they will likely be influenced by fake news:
“There is the possibility that Singaporeans could take the report seriously, like how fake news had influenced elections in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. I don’t think that we are any more sophisticated than the Europeans. Even I was taken in by fake news more than once.”
Law Minister K Shanmugam joined in the bashing of HRW and accused the HRW of lying when they could not attend the Select Committee’s hearings:
“HRW had chosen not to come to Singapore to publicly defend its views because it knows that its report would not withstand scrutiny. HRW, by its conduct, has shown that it cannot be taken seriously as a commentator or interlocutor on issues relating to Singapore.”