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When the ruling People’s Action Party (P.A.P.) passed a new law against “fake news” last year, it claimed to want to protect both free speech and national security. Falsehoods, the government said, “have been weaponized, to attack the infrastructure of fact, destroy trust and attack societies.”
Since the law came into force in October, the government has invoked it five times, and there is now reason to fear that the law is, instead, a tool to quiet dissent.
Last Thursday, the one target of the law that so far has dared to challenge it in court, the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, argued that an interpretation of data couldn’t be considered a “deliberate falsehood.” (Or so we, journalists, have been told: The hearings aren’t open to the public.) On Friday, the deputy attorney general apparently argued that the S.D.P.’s analysis of unemployment statistics could be considered fake news so long as some people risked misunderstanding it. The government had previously claimed that the party’s “false and misleading statements” had a “singular objective”: to “stoke fear and anxiety” among local white-collar professionals.