Shanmugam rejects TOC’s application to cancel correction direction for article on execution methods

Shanmugam rejects TOC’s application to cancel correction direction for article on execution methods

changi prison entrance gate
The entrance gate of Changi Prison. (File photo: Singapore Prison Service)

SINGAPORE: Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam has rejected an application by The Online Citizen (TOC) to cancel a correction direction issued to it under POFMA (Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act).

The correction direction was issued on Jan 22 against a statement by Malaysian human rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), along with an online article by TOC and separate Facebook posts by activist Kirsten Han and Yahoo Singapore. LFL claimed that Singapore carries out “brutal executions”.

In its press release on Friday (Jan 24), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said: “The conditions for the issuance of the Correction Direction had been satisfied, and the Application did not disclose any grounds to the contrary.”

Minister Shanmugam decided to reject the application after “having carefully considered it”, MHA said, adding that TOC has been notified.

READ: Singapore invokes online falsehoods law against Malaysian rights group's 'preposterous' claims on  execution methods

The ministry said the article published by TOC on Jan 16 contained falsehoods asserting that “prison officers were instructed to carry out the following brutal procedure whenever the rope breaks during a hanging, which happens from time to time.”

It went on to list what it said were the falsehoods in the TOC article:

  • The prison officer is instructed to pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him.
  • Meanwhile, another prison officer will apply pressure by pulling the body in the opposite direction.
  • The first officer must then kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it.
  • The officers are told to kick the back of the neck because that would be consistent with death by hanging.
  • The officers are told not to kick more than 2 times, so that there will be no tell-tale marks in case there is an autopsy.
  • Strict orders are also given not to divulge the above to other prison staff not involved in executions.

The correction direction was issued to TOC on Jan 22, the same day MHA issued its statement refuting the allegations as “untrue, baseless and preposterous”.

"For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any 'special training to carry out the brutal execution method' as alleged," said MHA.

"Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with."

TOC was required to insert a correction notice stating that the article contained false statements of fact, with a link to a Factually article that sets out the correct facts.

In its statement on Jan 22 refuting the article, MHA said: "LFL has been publishing various falsehoods to seek attention in hopes of getting Malaysian prisoners, who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore, off the death penalty," said MHA.

"Regrettably, there are some individuals and groups in Singapore who are spreading LFL’s latest allegations," it added.

Following the issuing of the correction directions, TOC said it had filed an application to Mr Shanmugam to cancel the correction order.

READ: Yahoo Singapore adds correction notice to Facebook post about Malaysian group's claims of 'brutal' executions

On Jan 23, Yahoo Singapore added a correction notice to its Facebook post after sharing an article that repeated claims made by LFL.

A check by CNA on the Facebook post's edit history showed that the notice was added to the post on the morning of Jan 23, a day after the correction direction was issued by the POFMA.

LFL said it would not comply with the correction direction or challenge it.

"We decline to challenge the order in Singapore courts because Singapore has no jurisdiction over us," LFL adviser N Surendran told CNA.

Source: CNA/mn