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TOC Asia, Terry Xu issued Pofma orders over false claims about police

TOC Asia, Terry Xu issued Pofma orders over false claims about police

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 08 May 2023
Author: Chin Hui Shan

MHA said that as part of the Pofma order, Mr Xu and The Online Citizen Asia will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their publications.

The Online Citizen Asia (TOCA) and its publisher Terry Xu have been ordered under the fake news law to post corrections to an online article and social media posts that made false accusations against the police in a 2021 incident.

In a statement on Sunday night, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue correction directions to the two parties. The orders are in relation to Mr Xu’s Facebook post on April 30, TOCA’s article on its website on May 2, and TOCA’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn posts on May 2 that referenced the TOCA article.

These publications made reference to the police’s bodycam footage of an incident on May 17, 2021, when police officers responded to a report about an elderly woman in Yishun Avenue 5 who looked lost and was not wearing a mask.

The allegations were similar to those in articles in 2021 on the incident by the now-defunct The Online Citizen (TOC), and it was issued a correction direction in May 2021 for publishing falsehoods. TOC then appealed in court to set aside the order, but the appeal was dismissed by the High Court in 2022.

TOC had alleged that police officers were taunting and reprimanding the woman for not wearing a mask then, which coincided with the initial stage of the Covid-19 pandemic here.

In its statement on the Government’s Factually website, MHA said it was very clear from the footage captured that the police officers’ primary aim was to assist the woman and to help her find her way home.

In a separate statement, the police said: “Xu alleged that the police knew that the elderly woman was not lost but wanted to send her home nevertheless. This is untrue... When police officers located the elderly woman, she repeatedly said she knew where she stayed, but was unable to provide her address.

“Her address was only later established with the help of a member of the public, who recognised the elderly woman and recalled that she lived in a nearby block.”

MHA said the officers had also reminded the woman to wear her mask, “in view of the Covid-19 situation at that time, and the prevailing requirements to wear a mask in public places”.

The police said: “Xu falsely claimed that the main reason the police officers approached the elderly woman was that she was not wearing a face mask. This is untrue as the police’s primary concern was to help the elderly woman find her way home.

“The fact that they had asked her to put on a mask does not detract from the fact that they were trying to get her home safely.”

The MHA statement added that the police “did not make any misrepresentations to the family members of the elderly woman”.

The police said: “Xu alleged that the police misrepresented and lied to the elderly woman’s NOK (next of kin) that the elderly woman was lost, and that this resulted in the NOK filing a police report on the issue. This is a blatant fabrication.

“The NOK had lodged a police report against TOC and not the police, over the falsehoods TOC had spread about the police officers’ interactions with the elderly woman, and for interviewing the elderly woman without the family’s permission.”

In addition, MHA said that previous statements by the police and Mr Shanmugam had accurately presented the facts in relation to the incident.

“The police did not withhold any evidence that would disprove their narrative or provide false evidence to the court,” the MHA statement said. “All footage from the body-worn cameras of the police officers at the scene which captured their interactions with the elderly woman were submitted to the court.”

It added that the High Court had dismissed TOC’s appeal and found that the police officers who had approached the woman believed that she had lost her way.

“The allegations made by Xu and TOCA that the authorities had misrepresented the facts could lead to erosion of public trust in the Singapore Police Force,” MHA said.

The police said: “Despite the Government’s clarifications and the High Court’s clear findings on the matter, Xu has persisted in making false allegations pertaining to the case. These allegations are wholly unfounded.

“Police resources are better used to deter and solve crimes, and to assist members of the public, especially vulnerable members like the elderly woman, rather than to address such baseless allegations over and over again.”

MHA said that as part of the Pofma order, Mr Xu and TOCA will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their publications.

The TOCA article, MHA added, is one of 60 articles written by Mr Xu to raise funds to pay for the fine imposed upon him by the courts for various offences, including contempt of court and Pofma offences.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.


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