Singapore Democratic Party appeals against High Court decision on its Pofma case about job figures

Dr Chee Soon Juan (second left) and Dr Paul Tambyah (second right) of the Singapore Democratic Party. — TODAY pic
Dr Chee Soon Juan (second left) and Dr Paul Tambyah (second right) of the Singapore Democratic Party. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 16 — The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has appealed a High Court’s decision to dismiss its previous appeal against correction directions issued to the party under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma).

SDP said in a statement today that its latest appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal tomorrow at 10am, the first time a Pofma challenge will reach Singapore’s highest court.

A five-member panel, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang Boon Leong, Judith Prakash, Tay Yong Kwang and Steven Chong, will hear the case, it added.

“We hope for a favourable outcome in this case. Details of our case will be made available when allowed.”

Another Pofma appeal case will also be heard by the same panel of five judges on the same day. This involves a correction direction issued by Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam to socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) over false claims about execution methods.

SDP’s case

The SDP case concerns claims that the party had made about employment statistics for Singaporean professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in two Facebook posts and an article on its website in June last year.

Last December, three Pofma correction directions were issued by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo against SDP’s claims that PMET retrenchment among Singaporeans had been going up and PMET employment had fallen.

An infographic used by the party, which depicted falling PMET employment among Singaporeans, was also deemed to be misleading by MOM.

In response, SDP filed an application in January to MOM to cancel the directions in what was the first challenge against a Pofma order. The application was rejected.

The party then filed an appeal to the High Court in the same month.

During the appeal hearing, both sides relied on MOM’s labour market statistics to argue their case. SDP argued that MOM had inappropriately used the anti-fake news law and it should not be used to dispute the party’s interpretation of statistics.

Teo was represented by Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair in the appeal. Outlining his side’s arguments, Nair said that the Pofma law also covers matters of interpretation.

Ultimately, the case was dismissed by Justice Ang Cheng Hock, who said that the meaning of the published material should be determined based on the understanding by a reasonable member of the public.

He concluded in his judgement that the opposition party’s claims on PMET employment were “in fact false in the face of the statistical evidence against them”.

The January appeal was heard in chambers instead of in open court, as the appeal was filed by way of an originating summons.

Both the SDP and TOC are represented by lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam. — TODAY

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