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Shanmugam rejects The Online Citizen's application to cancel POFMA order on police bullying allegations

Shanmugam rejects The Online Citizen's application to cancel POFMA order on police bullying allegations

The police said social media posts circulating online alleging police officers bullying an elderly woman who was not wearing a mask were not true. (Screengrabs: Instagram/Nicholas Zayden Tan)

SINGAPORE: Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has rejected an application by socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) to cancel a Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) order issued against it.

"The conditions for issuing the correction direction are satisfied, and the application did not disclose any grounds to the contrary," the Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Friday (May 28).

"After having carefully considered the application, the Minister for Home Affairs has decided to reject it. The Online Citizen Asia has been notified of the rejection."

TOC on May 18 shared an Instagram story by user @nichology that alleged police officers had taunted and reprimanded an elderly woman for not wearing a mask.

The police said the following day that the allegations were untrue. The officers had helped the woman, who has dementia, to find her way home and also bought her food, they said. 

READ: Police officer wrongly accused of bullying elderly woman in Yishun says he's 'glad that the truth is out'

On May 21, the POMFA Office issued a correction direction to TOC. The direction required TOC to post a notice on its Facebook page, stating that an earlier post contained a false statement of fact. It was also required to provide a link to an article on Factually, the Government's fact-checking website.

On May 25, TOC posted a YouTube video alleging inaccuracies in the police's statement. It questioned a police officer's tone of voice when speaking to the elderly woman, and featured an interview with the woman, who said the officers did not buy her food.

READ: The Online Citizen's video on allegations of police bullying elderly woman is 'despicable': Shanmugam​​​​​​​

The police also took the unusual step of releasing the officers' body camera footage to prove their version of events. 

Mr Shanmugam defended the police and called TOC's video "despicable" and "malicious". He also said TOC should spare police officers who were doing their job from its "toxicity".

In response to queries from CNA, TOC editor Terry Xu said on Tuesday that he took issue with how the Home Affairs Ministry interpreted the original Instagram story as stated in the POFMA order.

With Mr Shanmugam's rejection, TOC can choose to appeal against the minister's decision in the High Court.

Source: CNA/hz(cy)

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