Singapore passes law targeting ‘foreign meddling’ in politics

Singapore has passed a law banning “foreign interference,” which the government aims to prevent threats to national security and sovereignty, but critics warned of a chilling effect on free speech.

The Foreign Interference Act (Fica) gives authorities broad authority to act on behalf of the “foreign principal” and target people with threats of imprisonment and fines.

The bill was approved by a ruling-controlled parliament late Monday after a 10-hour debate submitted last month.

The law covers online hostile information campaigns conducted by foreign parties and interference through local proxies that are considered “politically important”.

Singapore’s governing People’s Action Party wrote on its Facebook page that Fika’s purpose is “to prevent foreign countries from disrupting our society and interfering with our politics.”

“Our politics is the philosophy that Singaporeans deal with,” said K. Shanmugam, Minister of Justice and Interior, during the second reading of the bill on Monday. “We can argue and disagree, but in the end we have to decide.”

In response to what he called a “general misconception” about the law, Mr. Shammugam argued that Fika would not substantially expand government authority, and that the United States and Australia would tackle foreign interference in the democratic process. Compared to effort.

He added that government investigations under the law would be curtailed by judges led by judges in the Supreme Court rather than in public courts to protect “confidential information.”

However, opposition parliamentarians argued during the debate that the drastic provisions of the law run the risk of allowing abuse by those who make malicious claims.

“If these strict measures are not properly restricted, they can have a chilling effect on free speech and information exchange between Singaporeans,” said Gerald Giam, a centre-left Labor Party member. Said in his remarks. Facebook page.

Under the law, the government forces Internet service providers and social media platforms to block or remove content found to be harmful to the city’s interests, provide user information, or terminate user accounts. can do.

Dalon Tan, a legal consultant for the International Lawyers Commission, an advocate, said Fika “does not comply with human rights law and standards.”

“The language used in Fica is ambiguous and widespread and can be used to unreasonably limit the right to freedom of expression, information and association and the right to privacy,” said Tan. .. “Also, the overthrow of the rule of law is troublesome. [Fica’s] It seeks to reduce the role of courts in considering the exercise of government power. ”

Shanmugam opposes Fica critics on Monday accusing him of “proactively trying to disseminate false information about the bill,” and “politically important people” declare donations as “foreign affiliations.” is needed.

He also claimed that the Open Society Foundations of billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a frequent target of nationalist governments around the world, have a “history of involvement in the domestic politics of sovereign states.”

Independent journalist Kirsten Han, who accused Shanmugam of disseminating false information about the law on Monday, suspected a local agent whose interior minister was working for a foreign actor after disseminating false information about the law. He said he was able to issue an order based on.

In 2019, Singapore “Online Falsehood” Bill It was fined up to S $ 1 million ($ 740,000) and imprisoned for up to 10 years for disclosing “malicious” false or misleading information.

“The government’s guarantee during yesterday’s debate wasn’t really guaranteed,” Han told the Financial Times. “They say there’s nothing to worry about unless you’re a foreign agent, but they’re the ones who come to point their fingers.”

Follow John Reed on Twitter. @JohnReedwrites

Singapore passes law targeting ‘foreign meddling’ in politics Source link Singapore passes law targeting ‘foreign meddling’ in politics

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