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Singapore authorities lift access block on East Asia Forum despite non-compliance of POFMA Correction Direction

The POFMA office revealed on Friday that the Correction Direction issued to East Asia Forum (EAF) under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) has been canceled. Subsequently, the Minister for Communications and Information directed IMDA to lift access blocking orders on EAF’s website.

Under POFMA, Individuals may face fines of up to S$20,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both for non-compliance with a POFMA Correction Direction, while entities could be fined up toS$500,000 for non-compliance.

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SINGAPORE: In a recent development, both the Correction Direction issued under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) and the access blocking orders to East Asia Forum (EAF) have been rescinded.

The decision to cancel the Correction Direction was announced by the POFMA office on Friday (22 Sep), in response to EAF’s request for its cancellation submitted on 20 September.

Following the cancellation of the POFMA’s Correction Direction, the Minister for Communications and Information also directed the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to remove Access Blocking Orders to the EAF website.

The Correction Direction had been issued in response to an article titled “A spate of scandals strikes Singapore,” published by EAF on August 18, 2023.

The reason provided for the cancellation was that EAF had removed the article, from all its publication sites at the author’s request.

Additionally, Assistant Professor Chan Ying-Kit, the author of the article, on Monday issued a public apology regarding the matter.

“After careful consideration of EAF’s explanations and all the circumstances of the present case, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Indranee Rajah, has instructed the POFMA Office to cancel the Correction Direction and the Targeted Correction Direction issued to Meta Platforms, Inc,” said the POFMA office in the statement.

NUS Asst Prof earlier apologised for POFMA-ed article and retracts it from East Asia Forum

On 18 August, Dr Chan who holds the position of assistant professor at the Department of Chinese Studies, National University of Singapore had the article published on the website.

On 13 September, Singapore’s Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) issued a correction directive to the East Asia Forum under the instruction of Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

PMO highlighted that the article contained “false statements” concerning the independence of the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s methodology in addressing extramarital affairs among parliamentarians.

East Asia Forum faces access blocking for non-compliance with Singapore’s POFMA correction direction

Following a breach of the Correction Direction issued on 13 September regarding misinformation in the article, the Minister for Communications and Information on 16 September directed the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) to execute Access Blocking Orders against East Asia Forum.

The Correction Direction served to the East Asia Forum demanded the presentation of correct information alongside the alleged falsehoods, enabling Singaporeans to discern the truth by comparing both versions.

Contrary to this directive, East Asia Forum positioned the Government’s response within the comments section at the end of the article.

This arrangement did not comply with the stipulated positioning of the Correction Notices at the article’s beginning and the website’s main page.

In response to TODAY’s inquiries on the night of Monday (Sept 18) night, Dr Chan released a statement, expressing his “sincere and unreserved apologies” for the errors, omissions, and false statements made in his article, which was written independently without the knowledge of NUS.

Non-compliance with POFMA’s correction Directions may lead to hefty fines and imprisonment

Under POFMA, Non-compliance with a POFMA Correction Direction can result in significant fines and even imprisonment.

Individuals who do so without a reasonable excuse may face penalties, including fines up to S$20,000, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both. For entities other than individuals, fines may reach up to S$500,000.

Importantly, it is not considered a valid defense if a person is obligated by written law, contractual obligations, or professional conduct rules to disobey the Direction or has initiated proceedings to alter or challenge it under Section 19.

While POFMA permits the Minister who instructed the POFMA office to issue a Part 3 Direction (Correction Direction/Access Blocking Direction) to, at any time, instruct it to vary or cancel the Part 3 Direction by serving a written notice to the person to whom the Direction is issued, there doesn’t seem to be any provision allowing the Minister to dismiss any offence resulting from non-compliance with the issued direction.

 

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Real News Not Covered.

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