Photo of K Shanmugam from CNA

According to the concluding report published by the ruling party-controlled Select Committee yesterday (Sep 20), the Singapore government will be granted the power to shut down or block any website it deems as “fake news”. On page 104 of the government report, it stated that Law Minister K Shanmugam should be granted arbitrary rights to decide what is “fake news” and the powers to arrest anyone he deems as guilty without a court order:

“364. Decision-maker. The potential decision-making bodies identified by representors
were as follows:

The Executive.

Associate Professor Goh Yihan, Dean of the SMU School of Law, was a proponent of this option, with a subsequent stage of independent judicial oversight.
i. Associate Professor Goh explained that the judicial process, while important, may not be sufficiently fast to deal with the rapid spread of online falsehoods. Court processes require an application for a court order to be made together with a supporting affidavit. The application must then be served on the person against whom the
order is sought. That person can then file an affidavit in reply. The court may require a hearing before coming to a decision. Associate Professor Goh noted that Executive action was also used by the Broadcasting Act to take down certain material. “

Led by the Law Minister K Shanmugam himself, his proxy Select Committee made 22 recommendations, which will be passed into law by the single-party dictatorship Parliament in the subsequent parliamentary seatings.

Apart from giving himself dictatorial powers, the Law Minister also demanded that technology companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook to comply with government orders to take down any content he dislikes.

In a brief media response, a Twitter spokesperson said in a defiant tone that Twitter will “keep its commitment to keeping people informed about what is happening in the world. Google did not express support for the committee’s recommendations and instead stated that it will build a fact-checking committee with Google News Initiative and Google News Lab. There is however no mention by Google of working with the government’s official “fact-check” website, FactuallySg.

Editor’s note: When the recommendations passed into laws – which is a certain – States Times Review will be the first victim of Law Minister K Shanmugam’s legalised corruption. As the ruling party is now increasingly more insecure in their coming general election in 2019, new censorship laws and other heavy-handed interventions are expected from the dictatorship. The committee report highlighted two measures against STR, namely financial disruption and criminalisation. These two are however irrelevant as STR is non-profit in nature, first, the website is only but a platform to publish my analysis on current affairs. Second, I have come to terms my fate of a Singaporean in exile that I would certainly be arrested if I were to even stop in Singapore for an international transit. The futility in the committee’s countermeasures have shown the ruling party is out of ideas and incompetent, which alleviate much of my real concerns.