21 June 2021 23:18

Embarrassment for Delhi CM Kejriwal, Singapore invokes anti-fake-news law

On Thursday, the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) invoked its anti-misinformation law, Protection from Online Falsehoods & Manipulation Act (POFMA) against Indian national capital territory Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Mr Kejriwal allegedly spread “fake news’ by tweeting about the coronavirus variant from Singapore.

The Singapore MOH instructed the POFMA Office to issue General Correction Directions to Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines Pte Ltd (HardwareZone forum), read MOH statement.

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Facebook, Twitter and SPH Magazines are required to carry the Correction Notice to all end-users in Singapore who use Facebook, Twitter and HardwareZone.com. Under this, the social media giants will be required to make corrections and clarifications are regarding falsehoods on the “Singapore” strain.

The correction notice of Singapore Minstry of Health reads,

“There is no new “Singapore” variant of COVID 19. Neither there is evidence of any COVID-19 variant that is ‘extremely dangerous for kids.”

It further reads that “the strain that is prevalent in many of the COVID-19 cases detected in Singapore in recent weeks is the B.1.617.2 variant, which originated from India. The existence and spread of the B.1.617.2 variant within India predate the detection of the variant in Singapore, and this has been publicly known and reported by various media sources from as early as 5 May 2021.”

Earlier Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal had posted a tweet in Hindi (Indian Language) on Tuesday about an alleged “new form” of COVID-19 in Singapore and claimed it is very dangerous for children.

“NEW FORM OF CORONAVIRUS IN SINGAPORE IS SAID TO BE VERY DANGEROUS FOR CHILDREN. IT COULD REACH DELHI IN THE FORM OF A THIRD WAVE.”

Mr Kejriwal appealed to the Indian central government:

1. “Cancel all air services with Singapore with immediate effect.”
2. “Work on vaccine alternatives for children on a priority basis.”

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Delhi CM Kejriwal’s remarks evoked responses and caused some alarm.

On Wednesday, Singapore High Commissioner Simon Wong came down heavily on Arvind Kejriwal for his tweet on an alleged dangerous variant of COVID-19, saying that Singapore reserves the right to invoke his country’s online fake news Act on the Delhi Chief Minister’s assertions.

He also said that a person holding government office “must not promote fake news”.

In Singapore, we have Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) to mitigate misinformation and we reserve the right to invoke POFMA on assertions made by CM (Delhi),” said Simon Wong.

The Indian envoy to Singapore was also summoned by the country’s foreign ministry after which he clarified that Delhi CM has no competence to pronounce on COVID variants or civil aviation policy.

Later, the Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi commented on the matter.

Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar asserted that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal doesn’t speak for India. 
He said Kejriwal’s remarks will not impact the bilateral cooperation and “the unfortunate episode should be put behind and we must focus and help each other in the fight against COVID-19 in both countries”.

Simon Wong said he felt reassured by the remarks of MEA and the Indian External Affairs Minister.

“I think it is incumbent on Delhi government if they want to talk about more things dealing with domestic politics. I feel that as a Singapore High Commissioner here, my task is to deal with bilateral relationship. We don’t dabble in domestic politics so I leave it to the Government of India and political parties to sort it out. I am heartened and very assured by clarification made by MEA and also the External Affairs Minister.”

“It (Delhi CM’s remarks) would not impact our (India-Singapore) hand-in-hand fight against COVID. As witnessed yesterday and today with transportation of medical aid, we’re working together. Pandemic knows no boundary or political colour,” he said.

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