Singapore invokes online falsehoods law against Malaysian rights group's 'preposterous' claims on execution methods
SINGAPORE: Claims by a Malaysian human rights group that Singapore carries out "brutal" executions are "untrue, baseless and preposterous", said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which on Wednesday (Jan 22) invoked the online falsehoods law against Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) and three parties for spreading the allegations.
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has instructed the POFMA (Protection From Online Falsehoods And Manipulation Act) Office to issue a correction direction against LFL’s statement on its website, Kirsten Han’s Facebook post, an online article by The Online Citizen and a Facebook post by Yahoo Singapore, said MHA in a press release.
They will be required to carry a correction notice, stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods.
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"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.
On Jan 16, LFL released a press statement alleging brutal execution methods at Singapore's Changi Prison.
In its statement, it alleged that prison officers were instructed to "pull the rope around the neck of the prisoner towards him" and "kick the back of the neck of the prisoner with great force in order to break it", whenever the rope broke during a hanging.
"LFL also made spurious allegations that prison officers were 'given special training to carry out the brutal execution method', that the Singapore Government approved of these 'unlawful methods', and suggested that specific measures were adopted to cover up these methods," said MHA.
"These allegations are entirely unfounded," it added.
ROPE HAS NEVER BROKEN BEFORE: MHA
The ministry said that no effort is spared to ensure that all executions in Singapore - which are done in the presence of the prison superintendent and a doctor - are carried out in strict compliance with the law.
Under the law, a coroner is also required to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of an execution to ensure it was carried out duly and properly, said MHA.
"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."
KIRSTEN HAN, THE ONLINE CITIZEN RESPOND
On Wednesday at about 4.40pm, Ms Han attached a correction notice on her Facebook post.
"Under POFMA, I’m legally required to append the above Correction Notice to this post," she wrote in the post.
"I originally shared this post because the allegations that were made by Lawyers For Liberty, concerning a process about which very little information is publicly available, were extremely serious and disturbing.
Ms Han added that she was concerned about how POFMA orders "affects the ability of journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens to follow up on allegations".
"In the interests of dealing with 'fake news', I hope that government and public agencies can be more responsive to queries from journalists and/or civil society groups when they are seeking information that can clarify matters.," she said.
Ms Han earlier confirmed that she received a correction direction from the POFMA Office on Wednesday morning and has until 8am on Thursday to comply with the direction.
"I'll be using the rest of the time given under the correction direction to decide how I should proceed," she had said in a Facebook post.
The freelance journalist added that she had previously asked the Singapore Prison Service for their response to LFL's statement and other questions about executions in prison and their standard protocol, but received no reply.
The Online Citizen (TOC) said on Wednesday morning it has filed an application to Mr Shanmugam to cancel the correction direction.
"The minister has three days to consider the application before TOC can take the matter to the court," it wrote in a Facebook post.
Since POFMA came into force in October, correction directions have also been issued to Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer, the States Times Review, the Singapore Democratic Party, and Singaporean lawyer Lim Tean.