A Singapore opposition party says it will legally challenge government corrections under the so-called fake news law, which came into effect in October.
The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) was ordered in December to put government notices stating that a piece contained false information on its website and on Facebook posts discussing professional job numbers in Singapore.
This week it said it stood by its article and asked for the notices to be withdrawn by the labour ministry.
The SDP, which currently has no MPs, said it was demanding an apology or it would take the case to court.
It added that the labour ministry had used the law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, for “political-partisan purposes to stymie legitimate criticism”.
Human rights groups say the law inhibits freedom of speech and the opposition parties say it gives the government in the one-party state too much power with a general election expected in a few months. The election must be held by early 2021.
The authorities argue that the correction directions do not restrict debate and instead give readers more information.
Foo Teow Lee, Singapore’s consul-general in Hong Kong, defended the law in a letter to the South China Morning Post, saying the paper reported “untrue” accusations on how the law was being used.
“In every case where we have issued correction notices to online posts, we have detailed the falsehoods as well as the public interest involved,” the envoy said.
The law has been used four times since November 25
The government will be keen to demonstrate evidence of economic progress ahead of the election and will be expected to offer some sweeteners to voters in the budget, which is anticipated on February 18.
Private home prices in Singapore rose by a slight 0.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2019, as government cooling measures levied in July 2018 stopped the housing market from overheating.
For all of 2019, Singaporean apartment prices increased by 2.5 per cent, down sharply from the rise of 7.9 per cent in 2018.
In 2018, Singapore raised stamp duties for second homes, tightened loan-to-value limits for housing loans granted by financial institutions and made it more costly for foreign investors to buy property.
Singapore specialises in high-rise living. Picture credit: NeedPix