Apologies, Fake News and Turtles

We’re back with another issue of CAPE News Aggregator! This week, amongst many other things, we look at how politicians can play their role unapologetically, and updates to the Fake News legislation.
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To apologise or not to apologise, that is the question.
The recent Budget debate has thrown the concept of parliamentary privilege into the limelight. During the debate, Workers‚Äô Party MP Sylvia Lim remarked that the Government had floated ‚Äútest balloons‚ÄĚ on the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) hike, and said that she suspected the government was stuck with the decision. In response, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam accused her of insinuating that the government had behaved dishonestly, and both Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat and Leader of the House Grace Fu demanded her to apologise and withdraw her statements. Lim refused to apologise, saying that she did not accuse the government of dishonesty, and was doing her duty as a MP to reflect concerns on the ground. Fu replied that she was ‚Äúdisappointed‚ÄĚ with Lim and her behaviour was ‚Äúindicative of the low standards of her and her party‚ÄĚ, and would refer the matter to the Committee of Privileges if such an incident repeated itself next time.
     Read more here     A summary by Mothership     What can the Committee of Privileges do?     Veteran Journalist Bertha Henson's commentary on Parliament Feud
What was the Workers’ Party’s budget focus?
The WP focused their minimal time during the Budget debate on budget cuts to healthcare, transport, and manpower. Some brief points — WP cited South Korea‚Äôs silver towns as an example of developing housing needs for an ageing population. They also advocated for greater accessibility of mental health support to masses in the heartlands.
Regarding transport, WP vouched for docking stations as a better solution to curb haphazard parking of shared bikes, instead of QR codes.
Manpower-wise, WP vouched for better protection of freelance workers, implementing incentive mechanism to encourage self-employed workers to contribute to CPF. WP also questioned the inclusion of HDB flat type as a factor in determining Silver support payout for the elderly in need, to name a few.
    Read More
Delayed approval for lecture by media professor Cherian George in NUS due to ‚Äėoversight‚Äô
Hong Kong-based media professor Cherian George was supposed to give a talk at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) in NUS on March 9, but approval for the talk was only granted hours before the event due to a ‚Äúscreening process‚ÄĚ for guests. Dr George then took to his blog to opine if this signalled a decline in academic freedom, and urged for greater transparency from NUS. In response, NUS stated that this was due to an ‚Äėoversight‚Äô, and that Dr George had accepted a re-invitation to give the talk on March 28. The Streisand effect still holds apparently, because the talk has received ‚Äėoverwhelming response‚Äô.
     Read more
Public Hearings on Deliberate Online Falsehoods (DOF): Legislation or not?
Law Minister K.Shanmugam has defended the need for new legislative measures to curb the perceived threat of DOFs. SMU Law Dean Goh Yihan agreed, while British academic Ben Nimmo cautioned against such a heavy-handed approach, advocating for legislation to be a last resort. Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) researchers Carol Soon and Shawn Goh asserted that the Green Paper’s definition of DOFs is too broad, offering their own distinction between high and low breach threats of DOFs. They further suggested having independent fact checking agencies.
Dr. Shashi Jayakumar of S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) argued that legislative measures must be complemented by courses on media literacy. Furthermore, national security experts from RSIS stated that Singapore is already caught in information warfare. On hindsight, the recent exposé of Britain’s Cambridge Analytica makes this less surprising. While top-down legislation is a possible way of dealing with DOFs, the state which enforces these laws consists of political actors. How then are citizens to protect themselves from another probable source of disinformation- state propaganda?
While the schedule is yet to be released, New Naratif executives Kirsten Han and Dr Thum Ping Tjin are expected to give oral evidence on 27th March and 29th March respectively.
    Read more    Videos, submissions, and schedule of public hearings     Kirsten Han: Government's move to curb fake news might backfire
Amendments to Films Act passed in parliament despite written appeals by public
Amendments to the Films Act extend Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA) officers‚Äô powers to allow them to enter, search, and seize evidence without a warrant, and without police involvement, for ‚Äúserious offences‚ÄĚ (such as those involving prohibited films and the unlicensed public exhibition of films).
Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that several adjustments were made to address public feedback. Among other things, the powers are limited to ‚Äúserious offences‚ÄĚ (such as as those involving prohibited films and the unlicensed public exhibition of films).
Despite tweaks to the proposed changes, some MPs and NMPs raised concerns over the Amendment. Apart from criticism over IMDA officers‚Äô powers, there were questions on the Co-Classification scheme, which involves allowing external film content assessors trained by IMDA to classify films and videos up to PG13 ratings, and was formalised by the Amendment; NMP Kok Heng Leun stated that it may ‚Äústifle the creative and art scene in Singapore‚ÄĚ. There were also concerns over the definition of ‚Äúnational security‚ÄĚ, with regard to films that are deemed a threat to national security, that the IMDA refuses to classify.
     Read More
Civil Society Concern over Public Order Bill, Parliament unanimously passes it
On March 21, The Government passed the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act (POSSPA). The Workers‚Äô Party voted for it in the end, although they did raise some concerns. The G has reiterated that the Bill‚Äôs sole purpose is to aid authorities to ‚Äúbetter deal with today‚Äôs prevailing terror threat‚ÄĚ, and assured local civil society groups that peaceful protests would not be treated the same way as terrorist violence. However, local civil society groups remain apprehensive about the future of civil society in Singapore.
     Read More     A Concerned Civil Society     Bertha Henson's Take
FOOD FOR THOUGHT/FYI
    1. Written by CAPE’s very own curator, Isaac, for Tembusu College, this article reminds us that we should not take what we have for granted, and take time to remember our history that created today, and our identity as Singaporeans.
  1. Good Day for Activism:
    1. Prime Example of a Ground-Up Move: Last November, MP Louis Ng’s petition was turned down by the G. However, from 6th March onwards, divorcees can now buy or own a subsidized flat immediately, instead of having to wait three years before doing so.
  1. Owner of Turtle Museum emulates active citizenship: Politics is not merely the art of government, but also the everyday realities of ordinary people who negotiate their demands with other parties. Connie Tan owns The Live Turtle and Tortoise Museum Рthe only one of its kind in the world. Unfortunately, it has been ordered to be evicted by 31st March 2018 for the site’s redevelopment. Instead of feeling resigned to inaction, Ms Tan started a petition which has since gathered over 3000 signatures and wrote directly to the Prime Minister via Facebook, pleading to let her Museum survive. The PM responded, saying that the respective agencies are looking into her case.
       Read More Here         The petition  Update: The lease has been extended! 
  1. A call for the PSLE to be removed by MP Denise Phua was rejected by Education Minister Ng Chee Meng, who argued that ‚Äúthis would only transfer the pressure on parents and students to other parts of the education system.‚ÄĚ What do you think?
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