SINGAPORE: The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a scathing response to an invitation by the Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods to present evidence before the panel.
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, the non-profit organisation said in a press statement on Friday (Mar 30).
The report had described Singapore as a “repressive place” that imposed criminal penalties for peaceful speech and was slammed by the People’s Action Party Policy Forum at a hearing last Friday.
"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," HRW said.
"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."
Earlier, HRW said that it was unable to attend the public hearings, held over eight days from Mar 14 to Mar 29, due to scheduling difficulties. The committee responded that it also offered the option of video conferencing, and said on Tuesday that its invitation to HRW remained open.
HRW has instead asked the Singapore Government to respond to its letters, sent last year, on their research findings and raise any questions in writing with the organisation.
"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," it said.