The Independent S’pore POFMA-ed for ‘Deceptive Clickbait’ Article About Minister K Shanmugam


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First we have The Online Citizen’s Chief Editor being convicted of criminal defamation, and now The Independent Singapore has been served a Protection from Online Falsehood and Manipulation Act (POFMA) from the Ministry of Law.

Life is truly great for the local news feed these days, isn’t it?

The Deceptive Clickbait

On 21 April 2022, The Independent Singapore (TISG) published a headline “K Shanmugam says he may step down as Singapore’s Minister of Law and Home Affairs” on its website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

No Telegram? Okay.

The Ministry of Law asserts that the headline is pure clickbait, as it gives the false impression that the Minister for Law and Home Affairs said he may be stepping down from his ministerial position.

The POFMA even goes as far as analysing the article by paragraph, noting that the same false impression was instilled in the readers in the first paragraph when the writer Mr Toh Han Shih penned that the Minister “revealed” in an interview with Vanakkam Malaysia that he may step down from his ministerial positions.

Again, the Ministry of Law would like to reiterate that this claim is false.


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Hence, the Minister for Law has instructed for Correction Directions under the POFMA to be issued to The Independent Singapore and its writer Mr Toh.

They will be required to add correction notices to the online platforms that published the article.

Further Clarifications on the False Statement

Firstly, Mr Shanmugam did not say that he may be stepping down as the Minister for Law and Home Affairs, nor is he contemplating to do so.

Rather, the Ministry of Law points out the Minister’s dedication to serving the citizens, quoting that Mr Shanmugam considers it a “privilege” since not everyone has the opportunity to be in his shoes.


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Perhaps what might have led the TISG to the conclusion that the Minister might be stepping down are phrased in points 5(b) to 5(d), which states the following:

  • He must be ready to leave when he no longer has the people’s support.
  • He should be ready to move on when there are capable leaders to replace him.
  • He has maintained transparency in both his words and actions and will continue to do that, and if he can no longer continue to do so, he will leave his ministerial positions.

Moreover, the Ministry of Law clarifies that when he is speaking about his own views, he was generalising; his words hold true for any individual holding a Ministerial position, whether it’s in the past, present, or future.

But none of this translates to Mr Shanmungam stepping down anytime soon. 

Hence, The Independent Singapore has been ordered to publish a corrective notice alongside the posts, verbatim, with the information provided at this link.

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Immediate Corrections from TSIG

As one would expect, TSIG and its writer changed their tune very swiftly.

The writer Mr Toh posted the correction notice with captalised and blocked letters as the header, while linking his readers to the correct information.

The Independent Singapore did the same, going as far as pinning the tweet to ensure that everyone would see it.

Image: twitter.com (@IndependentSG)

If there’s anything that will put the fear of god, I mean government, on News & Media sites, it’s definitely a POFMA notice.

Conclusions

The biggest takeaway from this short-lived ordeal is that you should never declare that a Minister may be stepping down unless they explicitly state that they are going to do so.


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Never assume anything about the government or else you might get in trouble.

Plus, has anyone paid attention to the reaction timing?

The article was only published for a day and the Ministry of Law’s gavel came down, hammering hard on the news site

This is also why quotations are a godsend.

You can never go wrong if you directly take the words from the horse’s mouth. 

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Featured Image: The Independent Singapore


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