Singapore opposition party fears use of fake news law in election

Singapore says it is vulnerable to fake news because of its position as a global financial hub, its mixed ethnic and religious population and widespread Internet access. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 26 July 2019

Singapore opposition party fears use of fake news law in election

  • Singapore says it is vulnerable to fake news because of its position as a global financial hub, its mixed ethnic and religious population and widespread Internet access
  • Singapore is due to hold its next general election by early 2021, although analysts say it could come as soon as this year

SINGAPORE: The leader of a new Singapore opposition party said on Friday he was concerned that an anti-fake news law, which rights groups fear could stifle free speech, may be used in upcoming elections.
The city-state, which has been ruled by the People’s Action Party (PAP) since independence over half a century ago, passed the law in May.
Singapore is due to hold its next general election by early 2021, although analysts say it could come as soon as this year. The PAP has never seen its vote share drop below 60 percent and it holds all but six of 89 elected seats in parliament.
“I am concerned about this law. Worried that it’d be used during this general election,” Tan Cheng Bock, a former PAP lawmaker and presidential candidate, said at the launch of his new Progress Singapore Party.
“We might have our website portals down and then we will be in trouble,” he said.
Singapore government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while a PAP spokesman referred Reuters to previous statements made by government lawmakers. Senior PAP officials have previously rejected the notion the law could be used for political gain.
The law will require online media platforms to carry corrections or remove content the government considers to be false, with penalties for perpetrators running as high as prison terms of up to 10 years or fines up to S$1 million ($730,600).
Singapore says it is vulnerable to fake news because of its position as a global financial hub, its mixed ethnic and religious population and widespread Internet access.
Singapore’s only opposition party with seats in parliament, the Workers’ Party, voted against the law.
Tan held office for the PAP for over two decades until 2006, and shot to prominence by nearly defeating a candidate backed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the 2011 presidential race.
His re-entry into politics is seen as potentially boosting the country’s weak opposition.


UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

Updated 15 min 40 sec ago

UK scientists warn too early to tell if new COVID-19 variant more deadly

  • PM Boris Johnson had previously said evidence showed higher mortality rate 
  • Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant carries with it a higher mortality rate

LONDON: The discovery of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in the UK should not alter the response to the pandemic, scientists say, despite fears that it could prove more deadly.
Top medics have said it is “too early” to say whether the variant, thought to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, carries with it a higher mortality rate.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed there was “some evidence” the variant had “a higher degree of mortality” at a press conference on Friday, Jan. 22, with the UK’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, adding it could be up to 30 percent more deadly. 
That came after a briefing by the UK government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) said there was a “realistic possibility” of an increased risk of death.
Prof. Peter Horby, Nervtag’s chairman, said: “Scientists are looking at the possibility that there is increased severity ... and after a week of looking at the data we came to the conclusion that it was a realistic possibility.
“We need to be transparent about that. If we were not telling people about this we would be accused of covering it up.”
But infectious disease modeller Prof. Graham Medley, one of the authors of the Nervtag briefing, told the BBC: “The question about whether it is more dangerous in terms of mortality I think is still open.
He added: “In terms of making the situation worse it is not a game changer. It is a very bad thing that is slightly worse.”
Dr. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling for the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said he was “quite surprised” Johnson had made the claim.
“I just worry that where we report things pre-emptively where the data are not really particularly strong,” he added.