When queried by state media TodayOnline reporter over the definition of “fake news”, Senior Minister of State Edwin Tong was caught off guard and tried to pass the problem to Law Minister K Shanmugam:
“Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who also sits on the committee, previously said that falsehoods are capable of a definition, and have been defined in legislation.”
As the reporter asked for clarifications, the world’s government minister on a S$1.1 million-a-year paycheck then stumbled and said fake news is a “fact that is false”:
“A statement is false when the facts as asserted do not correspond with the facts as they exist… It is a fact that is false, not an opinion, not a theory, not a comment.”
The PAP Minister who is a senior counsel lawyer refused to define what is meant by “facts as they exist”, or what he meant by a “false fact”.
Minister Edwin Tong then further confuse the state media reporter by adding that public statements containing the wrong facts do not count as “fake news”:
“A passing comment, an opinion or a theory that might contain the wrong facts do not constitute as a proliferation of online falsehood.”
The clarification to exclude public statements is believed to protect Singapore ruling party ministers and MPs, who have been repeatedly found to have propagated false information in their public statements. Just earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam knowingly lied that Singapore has a lower GINI coefficient than Nordic countries at a public forum. This is proven to be fake news according to a fact check by States Times Review.
Minister Edwin Tong then dismissed the public opinion’s that the government is trying to censor criticisms. The PAP Minister claimed that his government has no “intention” to abuse the new law:
“Falsehoods do not have a place in Singapore, whether it’s from the Government, aimed at the Government, or by the person individually. That influences opinion in a wrong way. That creates an environment where people make decisions wrongly. Don’t think that because we are putting out legislation or putting out a series of measures, it is aimed at trying to use it as a tool for the Government. That’s not the intention.”