Screenshot of Shanmugam from Facebook video

International human rights watchdog group Human Rights Watch (HRW) concluded that the recent public hearings and consultations held by the Singapore government-controlled Select Committee is fake and just a “media event” for show:

“The committee’s actions have made it clear that this is not a serious and good faith effort to discuss a HRW report from December last year. Instead, it is clearly an effort to discredit critics of Singapore’s repressive policies and practices related to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Instead, it is clearly an effort to discredit critics of Singapore’s repressive policies and practices related to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. We have therefore reluctantly come to the conclusion that these hearings are not a true consultation on how best to deal with ‘fake news’, but a media event aimed to showcase those who agree with the government’s views and criticise those who do not.”

In Dec last year, HRW published a 192 page report citing legal references and called for the Singapore government to stop interfering with media publication and obstructing freedom of speech. The report titled “Kill the chicken to silence the monkeys”, was labelled as fake news by the ruling party representative.

HRW’s representative then opted to skip the public hearing, saying that he has other more urgent matters to attend to. The absence infuriated Law Minister K Shanmugam who accused the HRW of being “guilty” and not being able to defend their report criticisng the government.

HRW also pointed out that the Select Committee did not even present a draft bill for discussion, as earlier indicated by journalism freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The RSF has earlier explained their absence stating that a public consultation without a draft bill is a waste of time as there is nothing to “consult” about:

“If the committee or government genuinely wants our input on the proposed ‘fake news’ law, they should make the draft available to us a reasonable time – such as two weeks – before it is tabled in Parliament.”