SDP correction directions: Party says it will pursue matter in court

SDP correction directions: Party says it will pursue matter in court

SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan and chairman Paul Tambyah speaking at a press conference
SDP secretary-general Chee Soon Juan and chairman Paul Tambyah speaking at a press conference on Sep 2, 2015. (File photo: Sarah Yang)

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) said on Tuesday (Jan 7) it plans to take legal action after its application to cancel correction directions was rejected.

The opposition party had applied to cancel the directions, which were issued last month under an online falsehoods law over statements SDP had made on its website and Facebook page about employment issues.

Citing insufficient grounds, the Minister for Manpower rejected the application on Monday.

READ: Manpower Minister rejects SDP’s application to retract correction directions, cites insufficient grounds

READ: SDP calls on MOM to retract correction directions; MOM says party should follow due process

In a statement on Tuesday, SDP called the ministry's response a "cop-out" and said it had failed to provide "any grounds" for its decision.

"In rejecting the SDP’s application for the cancellation of the correction directions, the MOM has failed to provide any grounds for its decision," said the party. "MOM’s reply simply insisted that 'your application does not provide sufficient grounds for the cancellation of the (correction directions)'."

"This is not a rational answer, as the SDP had submitted a detailed account – including analysing MOM’s own statistics – of the reasons for the statements in our posts."

The party said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo did not refute "our specific arguments", saying she had either "refused to do so or been unable to do so".

It also criticised the ruling People's Action Party, saying the party "hurls accusations against its opponents, but refuses to substantiate its arguments when rebutted with official data".

"This is hardly the kind of leadership Singaporeans should expect or deserve."

"CONFIDENT OF OUR CASE"

In December, MOM instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office to issue correction directions to the SDP over two Facebook posts and an article which contained "a misleading graphic and false statement of facts” on employment trends among PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians).

The ministry said there had been no rising trend of retrenchment for local PMETs, in contrast to what the SDP alleged. 

READ: POFMA Code of Practice for online political ads will help citizens make informed choices: Iswaran

In its statement on Tuesday, SDP said it was "confident of our case", adding that the online falsehoods law should be "held to higher standards".

"Using the law to allege the SDP as posting 'false statements of fact' is a very serious charge," it said. "Refusing to back up its allegation when challenged with data is a clear demonstration of how far Singapore’s political standards have deteriorated."

"POFMA should be held to higher standards, this Government should be too.

"The MOM’s non-answer leaves the SDP no choice but to pursue the matter in court," it added.

Since POFMA came into force in October, correction directions have also been issued to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer, alternative news site the States Times Review and Singaporean lawyer and opposition figure Lim Tean

Singapore authorities have defended the law in response to criticisms of partisanship and questions of whether it may be used to suppress political dissent.

READ: Singapore defends online falsehoods law in response to articles by SCMP, Bloomberg

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran said the Government was not using POFMA to target "certain types of people or organisations”.

Source: CNA/nc(cy)

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