Proposed anti-fake news law 'works for Singapore' despite criticism: PM Lee

Proposed anti-fake news law 'works for Singapore' despite criticism: PM Lee

Singapore Malaysia Leaders' Retreat PM Lee Hsien Loong speaks
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks in Putrajaya on Apr 9, 2019. (Photo: Amir Yusof)

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (Apr 9) defended Singapore's proposed legislation targeting online falsehoods, saying that it "works for Singapore".

Reporters Without Borders had earlier criticised the proposed Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), tabled in Parliament on Apr 1, as "Orwellian" and "a major obstacle to the freedom to inform in Singapore".

READ: Singapore proposes multi-pronged law to combat online falsehoods

"I'm not surprised that Reporters Without Borders criticised it; they criticise many things about Singapore's media management," said Mr Lee, in response to a question on the Bill during the joint press conference held after the leaders' retreat hosted by Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad.

"But what we have done has worked for Singapore and it's our objective to continue to do things which will work for Singapore. And I think POFMA will be a significant step forward in this regard."

READ: Singapore, Malaysia affirm commitment to cooperative and forward-looking bilateral relationship

Mr Lee added that managing deliberate online falsehoods has been a serious problem for many countries and Singapore is not the only one using new laws to curb it. 

"Singapore is not the only one who has taken legislating on this issue; the French have done so, the Germans have done so, the Australians have just done something similar and very draconian," he said.

Also responding to the reporter's question, Dr Mahathir said Malaysia is to do away with its anti-fake news law as the government made a promise to the people that it would do so.

READ: In full: Joint statement by prime ministers at 9th Malaysia-Singapore leaders' retreat

"On the other hand, we know that social media can be abused quite seriously. For us, that means that we have to learn how to handle such fake news," he said.

"But when we have a law that prevents people from airing their views, we are afraid that the government itself may abuse the law like what has happened in the last government."

READ: Singapore raises concerns over Johor river, seeks sustainable water supply for both countries

Both prime ministers also fielded questions on bilateral ties and water issues between the neighbouring countries at the conference.

They had just concluded the ninth leaders' retreat in Putrajaya - the first one hosted by the Pakatan Harapan government which came into power last May.

Source: CNA/hm

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