Singapore orders Facebook to correct user’s post under its anti-fake news law

Robie de Guzman   •   November 29, 2019   •   215

Singapore – The government of Singapore on Friday ordered American social media giant Facebook to correct a post made by one of its users, marking one of the city-state’s first attempts to enforce its new law to combat so-called “fake news.”

The Singaporean minister for home affairs, K Shanmugam, said in a statement he had instructed the office administering the law – known as the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act – to issue a Targeted Correction Direction, which requires the company to publish a correction notice on the user’s Facebook page.

The post in question had been published last Saturday on the States Times Review page, administered by blogger Alex Tan Zhi Xiang.

The post included allegations surrounding the detention of a supposed whistleblower as well as accusations of election tampering, which the Singaporean government derided as “scurrilous” and “false” claims.

The POFMA office on Thursday told Tan to correct his post, but the blogger, who has said he is an Australian citizen, refused to do so.

The controversial post included the claim that, “in a bid to garner Christian support for the ruling party dictatorship and possibly turn Singapore into a Christian state, the PAP (People’s Action Party) government will be fielding a Christian evangelist in the upcoming general election.”

“The whistleblower who exposed the PAP candidate’s Christian affiliations has since been arrested, and facing police charges for ‘fabricating fake news,’ it added.

The PAP has uninterruptedly ruled the former British colony since its independence in 1965, gaining a monopoly on power via sweeping supermajorities in every single general election held over the past half-century.

“POFMA Office has also commenced investigations against Mr Tan for failing to comply with the Correction Direction,” the ministry’s statement added.

Under the law, Facebook could face a fine of up to 1 million Singapore dollars ($732,000) if it refuses to issue the correction. The company has yet to comment on the case, though the STR’s post remained published without amendments on Friday afternoon.

Facebook had previously expressed its concern with “aspects of the new law,” which it said granted “broad powers” to the executive “to compel us to remove content they deem to be false and to push a government notification to users.”

The penalties prescribed by the POFMA include up to 10 years in prison for the worst offenders.

The only previous case that fell under the act – which was passed by the legislature in May and came into effect on Oct. 2 – involved opposition leader Brad Bowyer, who quickly complied with the POFMA office’s correction request.

Several human rights groups have denounced the law as a vehicle for state-imposed censorship of the internet and an undue infringement on people’s freedom of speech. EFE-EPA

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Singapore officially launches Philippine Eagle pair

Marje Pelayo   •   November 28, 2019

SINGAPORE – Singapore officially launched on Wednesday (November 27) the Philippine Eagle exhibit at Jurong Bird Park featuring first breeding pair Geothermica (15) and Sambisig (17).

The birds arrived in Singapore in June as part of a 10-year conservation breeding agreement in cooperation with Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS).

Any offspring from the pair will be returned to the Philippines.

Present at the launch were Singapore Foreign Minister Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Joseph Del Mar Yap, DENR ASec. Ricardo Calderon and other Philippine Embassy officials.

“This is another wonderful opportunity to promote environmental conservation and biodiversity,” Dr. Balakrishnan said.

“It will raise awareness of the threats that these endangered birds face in the wild,” he added.

The launching of the Philippine Eagle Exhibit coincides with the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and the Philippines this year.

The Philippine Eagle, known for its massive two-meter wing span, is considered critically endangered with only about 400 pairs left in the wild. MNP / UNTV Singapore

Thick haze covers Singapore as neighbors continue to burn forests

UNTV News   •   September 18, 2019

Haze continued to blanket Singapore for a fifth consecutive day on Wednesday (September 18) as forest fires continued to rage in neighboring countries.

Every dry season, smoke from fires to clear land for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations in Indonesia clouds the skies over much of the region, raising concerns about public health and worrying tourist operators and airlines.

The 24-hour Pollution Standards Index, which Singapore’s National Environment Agency uses as a benchmark, was in a range of 111-126 in the afternoon, while PM2.5 ranged 83-115. A reading above PSI 100 is considered unhealthy. The World Health Organization sets a daily mean air quality guideline of 25 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.

Singapore’s air quality deteriorated to “unhealthy” levels on Saturday (September 14) for the first time in three years. (REUTERS)

(Production: Travis Teo, Nur-Azna Sanusi, Yiming Woo, Pedja Stanisic, Afiq Satikin, Arshad Muhammad Satikin, Joseph Campbell)

PH, Singapore reaffirm ties; sign 8 cooperation deals

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Republic of Singapore President Halimah Yacob pose for posterity prior to the start of their expanded bilateral meeting at the Malacañan Palace during the latter’s state visit to the Philippines on September 9, 2019. ACE MORANDANTE/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Singaporean President Halimah Yacob on Monday witnessed the signing of eight deals between the two countries mostly on economic cooperation.

Halimah, the first female president and first Malay head of Singapore in 47 years, is in Manila for a five-day state visit.

The agreements signed by the two leaders in Malacañang are as follows:

  • Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Education and Temasek Foundation International and Nanyang Polytechnic International Programme on Innovations and Teaching and Learning of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with Design Thinking
  • MOU between the Department of Agriculture and Enterprise Singapore on Agricultural Cooperation and Related Activities;
  • MOU between Department of Trade and Industry of the Republic of the Philippines, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority of the Republic of the Philippines, and Skills Future Singapore Agency of the Republic of Singapore on cooperation on human capital development and rescaling and skills upgrading of workforce;
  • MOU between the Development Bank of the Philippines and Infrastructure Asia Singapore on knowledge sharing to support infrastructure development;
  • MOU between Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System and Public Utilities Board;
  • MOU between the National Commission for Culture and the Arts of the Republic of the Philippines and Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth of the Republic of Singapore on Cultural Cooperation;
  • MOU between Infrastructure Asia and Public-Private Partnership Center on assisting Philippine local implementing agencies with the development or implementation of PPP projects;
  • MOU between the National Privacy Commission of the Republic of the Philippines and The Personal Data Protection Commission of the Republic of Singapore on Cooperation in Personal Data Protection.

In a joint statement, the two leaders said they committed to “further intensify trade and investment links, mindful of the goals we have set for ourselves under the Philippines-Singapore Action Plan (PSAP).”

Duterte added he rallied for Halimah’s support to encourage the participation of Singapore in the country’s priority investment areas and to advance collaboration between the two countries in agriculture, education and training, science and technology, tourism and cultural exchanges.

According to Duterte, Singapore is the Philippines’ second highest source of investments in 2018, committing a total of P21.18 billion, or 11.8 percent of total foreign pledges.

Singapore is also its seventh largest trading partner with two-way trade at US$10.49 billion.

Duterte also stated that he and Halimah discussed gains and ways to help bring lasting peace and development to the Mindanao region, particularly the progress in establishing the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“We discussed ways by which our cooperation could help contribute in bringing just and lasting peace and meaningful progress and development in Mindanao – one of the greatest and most crucial undertakings that our nation has embarked upon,” he reported.

For her part, Halimah described the economic ties between the two countries as “strong and robust,” but they both agreed to do even more together. She added there is also room to further boost trade and investment flows.

“We hope to make progress on updating the Singapore-Philippines avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement and the expansion of the Bilateral Air Transport Agreement, which will increase connectivity and create more opportunities for collaboration and growth,” she said in her statement.

Aside from boosting economic exchanges, Duterte also expressed interest in deepening defense and security ties with Singapore by strengthening the defense dialogues and training exchanges between the two countries’ military and special forces.

“We talked about deepening our cooperation in defense and security, which includes strengthening defense dialogues and training exchanges between the military and special forces,” Duterte said.

Halimah’s visit came as the Philippines and Singapore celebrate the 50th year of diplomatic relations.

She said there are more than 200,000 Filipinos in Singapore and that her country deeply appreciates the contributions of the Filipino community to Singapore’s society and economy. RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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