K Shanmugam orders POFMA correction direction on Plan B’s podcast featuring “The Messiah”

Singapore: The Minister of Home Affairs, Mr K Shanmugam, has “instructed for a Correction Direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act,” to be issued against Plan B, a podcast hosted on Spotify.

The podcast episodes in question (#614, #615, and #616), uploaded on 6 Sep 2023, featured James Raj Arokiasamy, infamously known as “The Messiah.” Raj is a former hacker who was imprisoned for crimes under the then-existing Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act in 2015.

Following the issuance of the correction direction on 13 September, The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in collaboration with the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), identified several statements made by James Raj as alleged falsehoods.

The Correction Direction requires Plan B to post correction notices on their Spotify and Instagram channels to ensure the audience is informed of the government’s stance on the issue. This initiative aims to “allow readers to read both versions and draw their own conclusions.”

The MHA and the Ministry of Defence, in a joint statement published on the Singapore government’s Factually website, provided detailed clarifications against the alleged falsehoods from the podcast episodes:

  1. James Raj allegedly claimed that Singaporean authorities refrained from pressing charges against him due to fear of retaliation. Contrarily, the government states, “It was not due to fear of retaliation as James Raj had claimed. The Police are fair and balanced in handling cases, even if the protagonist has criminal antecedents.”
  2. MHA disputes Raj’s assertion that he was isolated and deprived of human interaction during his remand period, noting, “James Raj’s description of his time in remand is entirely baseless.”
  3. Countering Raj’s claim that he was imprisoned for protesting internet censorship, the statement clarifies, “He was not, as he now alleges, arrested for protesting the regulation of Internet censorship.”
  4. Responding to Raj’s claim of being offered a plea deal on 400+ charges to cover up hacking government agencies, the ministries stated, “James Raj was not slapped with 400+ charges.” They further emphasized, “The systems which James Raj managed to infiltrate were disclosed publicly in the charges and Statement of Facts to which James Raj had pleaded guilty.”
  5. Despite Raj’s assertions that he had penetrated the Singapore Land Authority’s systems in 2013, the statement refutes, “There is no evidence of any breach into the SLA’s systems by James Raj.”
  6. James Raj’s claim of hacking into MINDEF’s systems is also countered, with MINDEF asserting, “MINDEF’s systems have never been breached by James Raj.”

It is said that TikTok took action against James Raj by banning his account, @jamesmessiah, where he supposedly disseminated more false claims.

MHA emphasizes, “SPF and SPS officers neither assaulted him nor denied him any medical treatment when he was in custody or in prison. James Raj received professional and fair treatment, equivalent to that of other accused individuals or inmates.”

Despite Dzar Ismail, co-founder of Plan B, attempting to distance the podcast from potential legal issues by commenting, “So, just to cover our bases, Plan B does not make any claims as to the veracity of the stories told in the episode,” the POFMA correction direction was still issued.

The corrective notices have since been put up on Plan B’s Instagram and Spotify.

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