Daily Lessons from Life 03 April 2018 - Select Committee's Conducts
"Select Committee to look into complaints on public hearings: Charles Chong
SINGAPORE: The Select Committee on deliberate online falsehoods will look into the allegations it has received on some of its public hearing sessions before issuing a response, its chairman Charles Chong said on Tuesday night (Apr 3).
Human Rights group Maruah issued a press statement on Tuesday stating their "misgivings" about the hearings.
Some witnesses from the committee's public hearings held last week, including freelance journalist Kirsten Han and social worker Jolovan Wham, said the summaries of the evidence they presented, which were released by the committee, misrepresented their views.
In addition, a group of civil society activists released a signed statement on Monday criticising the way the hearings were conducted.
In a blog post, Ms Han reproduced a formal complaint she had sent to Parliament and said her views during the hearing were "drastically misrepresented within the Summary of Evidence".
Citing an exchange with committee member Edwin Tong during the hearing, he said: "I did not say that there was no evidence of online falsehoods. I said there was no empirical evidence that online falsehoods have a significant impact on Singapore society.". I said there was no empirical evidence that online falsehoods have a significant impact on Singapore society."
The group of civil society activists which released the signed statement included Ms Han, CAN, civil society group Function 8, historian Thum Ping Tjin and The Online Citizen's chief editor Terry Xu.
Besides misrepresentation of summaries, the group highlighted that the hearings were "hardly open or consultative" and committee members appeared uninterested in soliciting witnesses' views.
The group's statement also said that "numerous leading questions were asked" and that members of the Select Committee "repeatedly insisted on yes or no answers to their questions despite repeatedly being told of the importance of context and nuance".
Human rights group Maruah voiced similar concerns on Tuesday. It said that the proceedings were at times "overly focused" on showing that the witnesses were propagators of falsehoods through "a process of intense interrogation".
It also called the committee's approach to some witnesses "disrespectful", and said it functioned "at times, patronisingly and discriminatingly".
"We express our dissatisfaction at the modus operandi and the approach that the committee took on when it came to the hearings from some civil society actors, online media practitioners, technology providers, academics," the statement said. "There were instances of aggression and a confrontational stance that underpinned the approach taken for these witnesses.""