Asia Sentinel issued Pofma correction order over false claims

SINGAPORE – Online publication Asia Sentinel has been asked to put up a correction notice, under the law against fake news, on one of its articles published on Wednesday containing several false statements.

These statements were related to a Nikkei Asia article; suspended lawyer M. Ravi; and Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern, who are under police investigation for possible offences of giving false evidence in judicial proceedings.

The article, titled “Singapore kills a chicken to scare the monkeys”, was written by the publication’s editor John Berthelsen.

In a statement on Friday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which initiated the corrections under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), took issue with three points made in the Asia Sentinel article:

  • That following the publication of Andy Wong’s article in Nikkei Asia on July 23, 2021, on “The institutional failures behind Singapore’s latest Covid outbreak”, the Singapore Government had threatened to end Nikkei Inc’s business operations in Singapore.
  • That Mr Ravi was suspended from practising law for five years because he had criticised the Government.
  • That Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Mrs Lee Suet Fern were forced to leave Singapore because government action was threatened against them for warring with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The statement on government fact-checking website Factually said that the false statements could erode public trust in the Singapore Government and the judiciary.

MHA said on Friday that the Nikkei Asia article had contained many factual inaccuracies.

A senior official from MHA had responded to the article on July 28, 2021. This was published as a letter to the editor in Nikkei Asia the next day.

In July 2021, when Wong’s opinion piece was published by Nikkei Asia, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam had questioned Wong’s motives in writing it, calling it “little more than a work of fiction”.

The minister also mentioned that Wong was “ironically” charged over possessing obscene films and transmitting obscene materials in a sex-themed Telegram chat group, with investigations against him and others starting in November 2019.

Wong was subsequently fined $42,000 in April 2022 for offences linked to obscene films and pictures.

“We are left to wonder if the criminal investigation against him was the reason for his diatribe based on falsehoods; and the extent to which he was doing a political hack job (his political affiliation is public),” Mr Shanmugam had said in a Facebook post in July 2021.

On Mr Ravi, MHA said on Friday: “He was suspended because the Court of Three Judges found that his various allegations against the Attorney-General, Deputy Attorney-General and prosecutors, and the Law Society, had recklessly and baselessly undermined the pillars of Singapore’s legal system and would cause grave injury to public confidence in the legal profession and the administration of justice in Singapore.”

For example, Mr Ravi had accused the prosecution of being “overzealous in his prosecution and that has led to the death sentence (in Gobi Avedian’s case)”, said MHA.

Mr Ravi had acted for Malaysian Gobi Avedian in seeking a review of his death sentence for importing 40.22g of heroin.

MHA said Mr Ravi had also threatened to commence proceedings against the Law Society “if it entertains any further complaints or partcipates (sic) in any harassment by AG to harass me in doing my job.”


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