Article source: https://mothership.sg/2019/05/fake-news-bill-passed/?fbclid=IwAR2N-BK-fiq5F-8P6SquRRBocdgBkS1lFfKuDq2YWsIEREDoaKwxmvtm4jM
by Sulaiman Daud
The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill passed in Parliament.
Following a marathon two-day debate, Members of Parliament (MPs) voted on the Bill at around 10 pm on Wednesday, May 8.
Ministers’ case for the Bill
According to the media reports, 72 parliamentarians voted yes, 9 opposition parliamentarians voted no, and three nominated MPs abstained.
The debate opened with a two-hour long speech from Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam, who addressed public concerns raised by the Bill.
He also gave international examples of how fake news undermined societies and damaged trust in their institutions, which the Bill is intended to combat.
Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong expounded on the technicalities of the Bill, and confirm that it could be applied to “closed” messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram.
However, all nine members of the Workers’ Party (WP) voted against it, including their six MPs and three Non-Constituency MPs.
Yesterday, WP chief Pritam Singh announced in his speech that his party would oppose the Bill.
Pritam suggested that courts should be the decision-makers, instead of ministers.
Low Thia Khiang, the elder statesman of the WP, opined that the Bill could help the ruling PAP achieve “political monopoly” by deterring criticism.
Three Nominated MPs abstained from voting. They were NMPs Walter Theseira, Anthea Ong and Irene Quay.
The three NMPs happened to be the same ones who formally proposed several amendments to the Bill before the debate.
According to Today, the three NMPs called for a vote on their amendment despite a point-by-point clarification by Shanmugam in his speech.
They asked Parliament to lift the whip so that MPs could vote on their amendment, which proposed limitations on the scope of powers granted to ministers under the Bill.