Court of Appeal’s Judgment on POFMA

Press Statement on Court of Appeal’s Judgment on POFMA

CA 47/2021 – The Online Citizen Pte Ltd v AG
CA 52/2021 – Singapore Democratic Party v AG

  1. We are pleased to announce that the Honourable Court of Appeal has allowed the Singapore Democratic Party’s (the “SDP”) appeal in CA 52/2020 in part. The SDP was represented by Mr Suresh Nair and Mr Joel Yeow (instructed counsel), and Mr Eugene Thuraisingam and Mr Joel Wong (Eugene Thuraisingam LLP).
  1. The Court of Appeal set aside the first half of a correction direction issued by the Ministry of Manpower on 14 December 2019 (“SDP CD-3”). Specifically, the first half of CD-3 identified a statement that “Local PMET employment has gone down”.
  1. The main bone of contention in respect of the subject statement was whether the word “local PMET” referred to both Singapore citizens and Singapore permanent residents, or only the former group.
  1. The Attorney-General (the “AG”) submitted that it was “straightforward and obvious” that the word “local” referred to both Singapore citizens and Singapore permanent residents. On the other hand, the SDP contended that the ordinary reasonable reader would have construed this word as a reference to Singapore citizens only ([223] – [224]).
  1. Having examined the Facebook post and all the relevant circumstances, the Court of Appeal held that, on a balance of probabilities, the potential readership or audience of the post in Singapore would have understood the phrase “local PMET employment” to mean Singapore citizens only ([231] – [233]).
  1. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal found that the Minister’s interpretation “was not made or contained in the graphical illustration in [the] post.” Therefore, it was held that this statement was not “communicated in Singapore” for the purposes of POFMA.
  1. The Court of Appeal exercised its discretion under s 17(5)(a) of POFMA and set aside the first half of SDP CD-3.
  1. The other correction directions issued against SDP were upheld by the Court of Appeal.
  1. Our Mr Eugene Thuraisingam and Mr Joel Wong also acted for The Online Citizen Pte Ltd (“TOC”), the appellant in CA 47/2020. TOC’s appeal against the correction orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.
  1. We welcome the Court of Appeal’s judgment in these two appeals as it sets the precedent for how future courts will interpret the relevant provisions in the statute relating to the setting aside of Correction Directions issued by the Government.

8 October 2021

Niszam

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