On July 16th, Jom was issued directions under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) 2019. These relate to two blurbs in our weekly digest, “Singapore This Week”—one relating to the Ridout Road bungalow leases, and another to Instagram’s geo-blocking of Charles Yeo. (Original article here.)
We respectfully disagree with the POFMA office’s findings, and will be challenging it according to the established process: first appealing to the ministers who issued the orders (Josephine Teo and Edwin Tong), failing which, we will appeal to Singapore’s High Court.
Here are two of their many arguments:
“Second, the article makes the statement that SLA spent more than $1 million on the renovation for 26 Ridout Road and 31 Ridout Road because the Ministers were to be the tenants. This is untrue.”
“The article also makes the statement that the Government caused Instagram to geo-block a post by Charles Yeo. This is untrue.”
Do read July 7th’s “Singapore This Week” and decide if Jom made those statements.
Our position is that Jom did not intend to make those statements and did not in fact make those statements. We understand the Court of Appeal in The Online Citizen Pte Ltd v Attorney-General and another appeal and other matters  SGCA 96 observed that a clear and public disavowal would not be unduly onerous if the statement-maker was taking the position that it was not making the subject statement that the minister said was being made. Given that we did not intend to make those statements and take the position that we did not in fact make those statements, we have taken guidance from the Court of Appeal’s observation and published an addendum to the original article to make this clear.
Also, in the meantime, we have had to comply with the correction order. I’m very grateful to our Jom team for responding so quickly. Even though the article is nine days old, the POFMA office e-mailed us the two letters on Sunday morning, at 9am. It gave us 24hrs to comply, otherwise we would have potentially, it said, “...committed an offence under Section 15 of the Act.”
It was a reminder to me of the way that official processes can trip up young outfits. But more importantly, and more gratifyingly, it was a demonstration of our team’s cohesiveness. After a year of working together, we handled this request quickly (12 social media posts; one new web page; and one new correction notice on our original article). Our Jom operations are getting tighter every day.
Finally, some of you may wonder about any impact on Jom’s editorial. Might these POFMA orders cause us to self-censor? I’d like to assure you that we remain committed to our mission: “to inform and delight with slow journalism, grounded in humility and sensitivity, and guided by the never-ending quest for truth.”
The number of corruption cases and scandals involving members of the elite is growing. It would be unfortunate if outfits such as Jom withered away now. Independent journalism is vital in times like these.
So we’ll continue to do our job. Thanks again for your support.
Note: The POFMA office requires the correction notice to “remain at the top of the main page until 13th August.” In order to fulfil this expectation, all new pieces published after the correction notice will have to be backdated. This is due to limitations of the website content management system Jom is currently using.
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