SINGAPORE: The Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods said on Tuesday (Mar 27) that it has experienced some "scheduling difficulties" with a "large number of witnesses" lined up for its public hearings.
"As far as we can, we have tried to accommodate the schedules of each witness. We have also tried to group similar stakeholders so that we can have the benefit of hearing them respond to each other's’ views. Thus, for instance, we have had panels of tech and media companies, and that format has worked well," it said in a statement.
"Inevitably this has created some scheduling difficulties, and we have had to work out various iterations with many witnesses, including overseas witnesses. Where one witness in an intended panel is not available, we would need to go back to the others in that panel, to check if alternate dates are possible.
"We thank the witnesses for accommodating these changes, and look forward to hearing their views."
The Online Citizen chief editor Terry Xu said in a Facebook post on Monday that there had been multiple changes in the date for his appearance at the public hearing between Mar 5 and Mar 26.
"Now put yourself in my shoe (sic), would you have been caught in a situation where you cannot make it because you had already scheduled an appointment that cannot be changed or the change was too sudden?
"The reason given is that some people on the panel cannot make it. But guess what, we know who the people are going to be on the panel due to the timing given and they too are subjected to the same changes in schedule. Due to the changes, at least one cannot make it on the set date."
In an earlier statement on Tuesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also addressed criticism at the Select Committee hearing that it had chosen not to come to Singapore to attend the hearing publicly and defend its 2017 report on Singapore.
The non-governmental organisation said it has no staff based in Singapore, and had offered to send the relevant staff member on a particular date. The committee did not confirm a date that could work for its staff until after they had made other commitments, HRW stated.