SINGAPORE, Nov 9 — Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam today called out some Malaysian media outlets for their failure to conduct “basic checks” on an article that sought to damage Singapore’s and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s reputation.
While he did not name the media outlets involved, the Minister said that when allegations “appear in mainstream media, you would expect them to check the facts before publishing”.
“Basic checks would have shown the allegations to be false,” he added.
On Wednesday, Malaysian online portal The Coverage published an article claiming that Lee will be next to be investigated in the 1MDB probe as fake news and “clearly libellous”.
The article, titled “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target — Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements with Hsien Loong In Exchange for Money Laundering”, was sourced from the States Times Review.
The story was also carried in China Press, a Malaysia-based Chinese news outlet, which has since been taken down the article.
The Singapore High Commission in Malaysia issued a statement on Wednesday night, saying it “would like to categorically state that this article is fake news and clearly libellous”.
Speaking to reporters today, Shanmugam said the allegations were “absurd”.
He noted that the arguments made — that the HSR agreement had favoured Singapore, and that water prices too low — were “not new”.
“This article repeats those points, and adds a very nasty and malicious twist. It brings in 1MDB, it brings in (former Malaysian PM) Datuk Seri Najib Razak, and says that our PM and the Singapore government were corrupt and complicit in the (1MDB) money laundering,” he added.
He called such articles “a classic example” of wanting to “damage confidence in Singapore, damage Singapore’s reputation internationally, (and) damage confidence in the Prime Minister”.
“We have debunked it immediately, and a lot of media have carried that, and we can go further,” Shanmugam said, adding that “Police will take action against all involved, based on investigations, and of course, based in AGC’s advice”.
Earlier on Friday, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) filed a police report against the author of an online article on alternative news site States Times Review for making false and malicious statements that “impugned the integrity” of the financial regulator.
The central bank said the article was “baseless and defamatory”, adding that it ignores the “unprecedented and robust actions” the regulator has taken over the last two years against Singapore-based banks and bankers in relation to their roles in 1MDB related transactions, which were “in most instances ahead of enforcement actions by foreign jurisdictions”.
Following MAS’ police report, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) said in a statement on Friday saying it has “accordingly assessed that the article undermined public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore Government”.
The article “is objectionable on grounds of public interest, and would therefore constitute prohibited content under IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice”, the statement added.
IMDA said it has issued a notice to States Times Review to remove the “offending article” by 5pm Friday (Nov 9), failing which, the agency will direct Internet Service Providers to restrict access to the site. In addition, it has also asked Facebook to deny access to the post. — TODAY