Singapore passes foreign interference law allowing

The small open city-state, which claims to be vulnerable to foreign interference, has targeted fake news with sweeping law in 2019.

The bill, officially known as the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA), passed Monday evening local time with 75 members voting in favor, 11 opposition members opposing it. and two abstained, local media reported.

Among the measures, FICA allows authorities to compel internet and social media service providers, as well as website operators, to provide information about users, block content and remove applications.

People considered or designated as “politically important persons” under the law will have to adhere to strict donation rules and declare their connections to foreign entities.

Instead of a tribunal, an independent tribunal – chaired by a judge – will hear appeals against the minister’s decisions, a decision the government says is necessary to protect national security.

The decisions of the tribunal will be final.

The government has stated that FICA does not cover building partnerships abroad, soliciting businesses abroad, networking with foreigners, seeking donations, or those discussing policies or issues. policies that affect their businesses with colleagues or foreign business partners, or support charitable organizations.

“As long as they are done in an open and transparent manner, and are not part of an attempt to manipulate our political discourse or undermine the public interest such as security,” said K. Shanmugam, Minister of the Interior, in Parliament.

It will also not affect Singaporeans expressing their own views or engaging in advocacy. The Home Office has also previously said it would not apply to foreign individuals or publications “who report or comment on Singapore politics in an open, transparent and accountable manner.”

But some critics say its broad language risks capturing even legitimate activity, while rights group Reporters Without Borders has said the law could trap independent media.

Singapore pundits and opposition parties have called for reducing the scope of executive powers and more oversight through the judiciary.

The bill was passed without strengthening “the circumscribed checks and balances, especially judicial review,” said Eugene Tan, professor of law at Singapore University of Management. “Although assurances were given, they could have been expressed unequivocally through legislative codification.”

However, Shanmugam said the bill represented the “best balance … between managing risk and providing controls against abuse.”

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