State News Singapore, Alex Tan issue correction directions over Facebook post about Singapore-Malaysia cross-border travel

Pofma office says State News Singapore made false statements about cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia in a Facebook post on June 27, 2020. — Factually image via TODAY
Pofma office says State News Singapore made false statements about cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia in a Facebook post on June 27, 2020. — Factually image via TODAY

SINGAPORE, June 30 — The alternate authority for the Minister for Foreign Affairs has ordered a correction direction each to be issued to State News Singapore and its owner Alex Tan’s Facebook pages for making false statements about cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia.

In a statement yesterday, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office said that State News Singapore had made the false statements in a Facebook post published on June 27.

In the post, State News Singapore wrote: “Despite Lee Hsien Loong personally calling Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin requesting Malaysia to open up daily commute, the Malaysian authorities refused to accede to his request.”

“This false statement of fact was shared by Mr Tan’s Facebook page,” the Pofma office added.

Factually, a government fact-checking website, debunked this statement in an article.

“We wish to clarify that the telephone call between the two Prime Ministers was initiated at the request of Prime Minister Muhyiddin. As Prime Minister Muhyiddin has publicly stated, he proposed that the Singapore Government consider a daily cross-border commuting arrangement,” it wrote.

“The Singapore Government is committed to discussing the gradual and phased resumption of cross-border travel with Malaysia, subject to mutually agreed public health protocols, to preserve the public health and safety of citizens of both countries.”

The website added that both countries are working on a “periodic commuting arrangement” and “reciprocal green lane”.

Discussions on other proposals are also underway to gradually facilitate more cross-border movement of people, while taking into account the medical resources available in both countries.

A targeted correction direction has also been issued to Facebook, requiring the social network to display the correction notice on the State News Singapore post, the Pofma office said.

This is the first Pofma order issued under an alternate authority.

After the Writ of Election was issued on June 23, Parliament was dissolved and ministers were no longer able to issue orders under Pofma.

In their place, senior civil servants were appointed to act as alternate authorities. These are the permanent secretaries of all 16 ministries and a few portfolios under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) who are able to exercise the powers of ministers during the election.

Earlier in May, Singapore States Times, a now-defunct page run by Tan, was issued two correction directions for a post about Covid-19 cases in schools. — TODAY

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