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Singapore rebuts illegal hanging report, serves fake news notices

22 Jan 2020 / 14:04 H.

SINGAPORE: Singapore rebutted a report on Wednesday alleging illegal execution practices in the city-state and ordered Yahoo and others to attach fake news notices on posts and articles that shared the allegations.

The report by Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty last week said that Singapore prison officers were instructed to snap prisoners’ necks by kicking them in the event the rope breaks during hangings. It said the report was based on information from an unnamed prison officer in Singapore.

The wealthy city-state carried out 13 hangings in 2018, the latest official data shows, 11 of which were for drug offences for which it has some of the strictest laws in the world. Amnesty International said it was the first year since 2003 that the number of hangings reached double-digits.

“The statement ... contains untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations about the use of unlawful methods in judicial executions,“ Singapore’s ministry of home affairs said, adding that no such methods were taught or approved, and that the rope used for executions has never broken.

The ministry instructed the rights group to carry a correction notice on the article under its new fake news law. It sent similar instructions to an activist and media commentator, a blog and the local news site of US web services firm Yahoo.

Lawyers for Liberty founder N. Surendran said he stood by the statement and would not comply with the correction order.

“Singapore has no jurisdiction to interfere with the rights of Malaysian citizens to freedom of expression ... Their attempt to extend their jurisdiction upon Malaysians across the causeway is provocative and absurd,“ N. Surendran said.

Yahoo, owned by Verizon Communications, said in response to an emailed request for comment that it “was looking into the matter and will respond in due course”.

The fake news law, seen as one of the most far-reaching of its kind, came into effect in October amid concern among rights groups and opposition politicians it could be used to silence criticism of the government.

The government has denied such suggestions saying the law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma), only tackles falsehoods and that legitimate criticism and free speech would not be affected.

Since the law was first invoked in late November, most of the cases have involved political opposition figures and an opposition party.

Singapore’s communications minister has said it was a coincidence that the first few cases brought under the law were against political figures and parties. — Reuters

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