TOC, Which Made a Comeback Just One Month Ago from Taiwan, Got POFMA-ed Again

You might remember that The Online Citizen (TOC), an independent local news site, got into trouble with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) a few months back.

They are now back and relocated to Taiwan, and this change in their operating base has also changed their response to getting POFMA-ed.

Reading their response, one gets a sense that they’re just sick and tired of the Government’s actions against them. 

Summary of TOC Drama

TOC was founded in December 2006, but it went offline in September 2021 after the IMDA suspended, and subsequently cancelled, its class licence for repeatedly failing to declare all its funding sources.

The High Court dismissed the Chief Editor, Terry Xu’s, judicial review to overturn IMDA’s order in December 2021.

But this isn’t the end of TOC’s struggles, as Mr Xu got charged with criminal defamation in November 2021. He had to serve three weeks of jail time for defaming members of the Cabinet in 2018, by alleging that there was corruption in the government.

With so much bad blood between TOC and the Government, TOC decided to transfer its operations to a new company registered in Taiwan. The Singapore-registered company was closed.

TOC has since changed their focus, and will be providing commentary and analysis on Asian current affairs instead of daily news coverage.

TOC Got POFMA-ed (Again)

One month after their comeback, TOC got issued correction directions by the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) Office.

Along with former chief economic Yeoh Lam Keong, TOC was POFMA-ed over their early October post about the loss made by the Housing Board in a BTO project. They referred to a reply by Minister Desmond Lee that stated HDB will incur a $270 million development loss for the Central Weave @ AMK BTO project.

Mr Yeoh and TOC labelled the $270 million figure as “disingenuous and misleading”, and claimed there was an “accounting sleight of hand”. They alleged that the Government acquired the land at a much lower cost instead, and that Singapore’s reserves would gain a $500 million profit from land sales in this project.

Obviously, when one accuses the Government of being shady, they’ll definitely get POFMA-ed. The Ministry of National Development (MND) clapped back and said that the losses incurred are accurate and real.

Govt and Past Reserves Don’t Profit From Land Sales

According to MND, HDB has to buy state land by paying fair market value to the state reserves. This value is determined by a public officer appointed by the President, who will use valuation principles in line with current private sector practices.

So nope, the Government can’t just sell the land at a cheaper price to HDB, unless the President approves it. Additionally, both the government and past reserves do not profit from land sales, since they’re just converting their land assets into cash.

The POFMA Office required both Mr Yeoh and TOC to insert a notice against the original posts and articles, with a link to the Government’s clarification.

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Tired TOC’s Response

In response to getting POFMA-ed, TOC said they won’t be appealing against the correction directions.

“This is because no one has ever succeeded in making the Singapore Ministers to change their mind on something that they themselves had decided to do since the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act was passed and used,” stated TOC. Oof.

Additionally, since TOC is now based in Taiwan, they “no longer have a legal presence in Singapore to contest in the High Court”.

TLDR; TOC is tired and just trying to live their best life in Taiwan. 

Mr Yeoh also responded by saying that viewers can see the POFMA correction and the original statement, and that they can make up their own minds from there.

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Featured Image: Facebook (The Online Citizen),