A Malaysian rights group has launched legal action after Singapore ordered a correction to an article accusing the city-state of illegal execution practices. In 2018, Singapore hanged 13 people, mostly for drug offenses.
A lawsuit was filed on Friday against Singapore's interior minister over his attempt to change a Malaysian rights group's blog post that accused the city-state of using a brutal "coup de grace" to finish off botched executions.
Lawyers for Liberty said it took legal action against Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam to prevent Singapore from enforcing its new fake news law — which authorities can use to order corrections be published next to articles they deem false — in Malaysia.
Shanmugam on Wednesday ordered the group to change an article alleging that prison officers in Singapore were instructed to snap prisoners' necks by kicking them in the event of a rope breaking during hangings.
Singapore insists the allegations are "untrue, baseless and preposterous" and that all executions "are carried out in strict compliance with the law."
It accused the rights group of publishing false information to try and get reprieves for Malaysian drug traffickers.
Lawyers for Liberty said its report was based on information from an unidentified prison officer in Singapore.
"He [Shanmugam] gave direction asking them to publish a correction, failing which [Singapore's government] can take action against them, which includes ultimately being charged in Singapore's courts," said the group's lawyer, Gurdial Singh Nijar.
"We are saying that direction...is of no effect, null and void, and cannot be enforced [in Malaysia]," he added.
Under Singapore's law, failure to comply with a correction order is punishable with a fine and jail term.
Another website bows to demands
Yahoo Singapore, which also published an article based on the allegations, posted a correction notice on its Facebook page on Friday.
Singapore's Communication and Information Ministry has, meanwhile, blocked access to the rights group's website in Singapore.
Singapore doles out harsh punishment — including the death penalty — for drug offenses and murder. In 2013, the city-state ordered 13 people to be hanged — many thought to be Malaysian nationals.
Since the Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act came into force in October, several opposition figures and activists have been ordered to place a banner next to online posts stating that they contain false information.
The government has denied accusations that the law is being used to stifle criticism of the ruling PAP party, which has been in office since 1959. It says the directive only challenges fake news.
In a first, a Singapore opposition political party challenged the law in court earlier this month but a judge reserved judgment on the case.
mm/sms (AFP, Reuters)