Invoking ‘fake news’ law, Singapore refutes report on ‘brutal’ executions at Changi Prison

Entrance of Singapore’s Changi prison. Image: Google Street View
Entrance of Singapore’s Changi prison. Image: Google Street View

The Singapore home affairs ministry today refuted allegations made by a Malaysian rights group last week claiming that “brutal” executions have been carried out at the Changi Prison. 

The government’s so-called fake news agency has ordered Lawyers for Liberty, the group which published the allegations last week, as well as Singapore journalist Kirsten Han and two local news sites who wrote about the statement to say the information was false. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs said that the the legal group made “untrue, baseless and preposterous allegations about the use of unlawful methods in judicial executions conducted in Changi Prison.”

“No effort is spared to ensure that all judicial executions in Singapore are carried out in strict compliance with the law. All judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others,” the ministry said in the statement, adding that coroners review every execution to ascertain whether they were carried out “duly and properly.”

The allegations were written by an attorney adviser to the Malaysian rights group, N Surendran, and published Jan. 16. It said the group obtained its information from an anonymous Singaporean executioner working in the prison.

Singapore’s capital punishment is a concern in Malaysia, as a number of its citizens convicted of drug trafficking have been sent to the gallows in the city-state. Among them was 36-year-old Abdul Helmi Abdul Halim, who was hanged in November. 

The legal rights group said in its report that Singaporean prison officials have carried out a particularly “brutal” practice that involved “kicking” the back of the prisoner’s neck in the event the rope breaks. 

Singapore’s home affairs denied this, saying that the rope used for judicial executions has “never broken.”

“Any acts such as those described in the [group’s] statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with,” the ministry added. 

The ministry has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act office to order changes to the statement posted on the group’s website, a Facebook post by Han containing the statement, an article published by The Online Citizen and a Yahoo Singapore Facebook post promoting an article concerning the matter. 

“They will be required to carry a correction notice alongside their posts or articles, stating that their posts or articles contain falsehoods,” it added. 

The Online Citizen said it has filed an appeal to the order.

“The minister has 3 days to consider the application before TOC can take the matter to the court,” the outlet tweeted.

Singapore’s fake news law came into effect on Oct. 2 and has since targeted information the government deemed as false published mostly by members of the opposition. Among those that have received so-called “correction orders” was Progress Singapore Party member Brad Bowyer over an online post related to state-owned investment firm Temasek. 

The government says the law is intended to deal with potentially viral falsehoods; critics say it is a tool to stifle dissent.



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