Several activists, an advocacy group and a website have been asked to put up corrections under the law against fake news, over articles and social media posts that contain false statements about the execution of convicted drug trafficker Tangaraju Suppiah.
The Ministry for Home Affairs (MHA), which initiated the corrections under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), said that “despite the Government’s clarifications and the courts’ clear findings on Tangaraju’s case”, freelance journalist Kirsten Han, lawyer M. Ravi, Mr Andrew Loh, the Transformative Justice Collective (TJC) and The Online Citizen Asia (TOCA) had made false statements about the matter.
These false statements could erode public trust in the Government and the judiciary, the ministry added.
Tangaraju, 46, a Singaporean, was hanged on April 26, 2023, after being convicted in 2018 of abetting the trafficking of 1,017.9g of cannabis, an amount more than twice the capital threshold.
Anti-death penalty activists had campaigned against his hanging, claiming in online articles, interviews and social media posts that he had been convicted unfairly, allegations that the MHA refuted.
On Friday (May 19), the MHA took issue with:
- Ms Han’s Facebook posts on April 19 and April 22, her “We the Citizens” article published on April 19, and her Twitter post on April 19.
- The TJC’s Facebook post on April 23.
- Mr Ravi’s Facebook posts on April 20 and April 27.
- TOCA’s article published on its website on April 28 and its Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter posts on April 28.
- Mr Loh’s Facebook post on April 24.
One of the claims made was that Tangaraju had requested an interpreter when his statement was taken, but was refused one.
He was also denied an interpreter and access to legal counsel during his trial, the posts and articles said.
The ministry said that Tangaraju’s allegation that he asked for and was denied an interpreter during the recording of his statement was found to be false and was rejected by the High Court.
Tangaraju had raised this allegation for the first time during his cross-examination, noted the MHA, adding that the High Court had found it to be disingenuous given Tangaraju’s admission that he did not ask for an interpreter for any of the other statements subsequently recorded.
“Tangaraju was accorded full due process under the law. He was represented by legal counsel and had access to an interpreter throughout his trial,” said MHA.
Another of the claims in the posts and articles was that Tangaraju was never told that Judge of Appeal Steven Chong would be hearing his appeal.
Justice Chong was the Attorney-General when the Attorney-General’s Chambers was making decisions about Tangaraju’s case, but was not involved in the decision-making process.
MHA said Tangaraju’s lawyer was informed of both these facts before the appeal was heard.
The lawyer replied to confirm that Tangaraju had no objections to Justice Chong being a member of the coram for the Court of Appeal to hear his case, added MHA.
The posts and articles also claimed that Tangaraju was convicted, and sentenced to hang, and was later found to be not guilty.
Refuting this, MHA said Tangaraju’s conviction by the High Court was upheld by the Court of Appeal, and his conviction has not been overturned.
Finally, the posts and articles alleged that several personal costs orders were made against Mr Ravi to penalise him for his work in death penalty cases.
But the MHA said the costs orders were made for justifiable reasons and in accordance with the law, noting that Mr Ravi had filed unmeritorious applications to the courts, which were found to be abuses of the court process.
“The Government takes a serious view of the deliberate communication of falsehoods,” added the MHA.
Under the correction directions, Ms Han, Mr Ravi, Mr Loh, TJC and TOCA are required to publish a correction notice on their posts and articles providing access to the correct facts on the Government’s Factually website.
They can be fined up to $20,000 and jailed up to 12 months if they refuse to do so.
They do not have to take down their posts or articles or make edits to their content.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.