Singapore anti-vaxxers sue SPH for not being anti-vaxx

At left, the online group’s logo and The Straits Times article published in August. Images: Healing the Divide/Facebook, The Straits Times
At left, the online group’s logo and The Straits Times article published in August. Images: Healing the Divide/Facebook, The Straits Times

One of Singapore’s biggest media this morning rejected legal claims by a group of anti-vaxxers that it published false information about the coronavirus.

Singapore Press Holdings said it would defend itself against a meritless lawsuit filed late last month by a group called Healing the Divide over an opinion piece by its senior health correspondent urging differential treatment of the unvaccinated.

“​​We have received the legal notice. We believe that there is no basis for the application. We stand by our report and will defend this rigorously,” SPH told Coconuts today.

The lawsuit was announced by the group yesterday, which said it filed it under Section 15 of the Protection from Harassment Act. 

“As the main source of information in this country, we feel that they have both a legal and moral obligation to present the facts regarding COVID-19 and the pandemic and we would like to hold them to account,” the statement read, adding that they were hoping the court would issue a correction order to SPH.

It targets two statements based on widely supported understanding of the virus and seems more likely to win attention than impress a court of law.

The group, with over 800 followers, said it was not suing the company for harassment but for “making false statements of fact” in the article Only fair to protect vulnerable in S’pore against Covid-19 spread by unvaccinated people written by Senior Health Correspondent Salma Khalik in August. 

In it, Khalik said those who are unvaccinated were not being fair and putting others at risk of contracting the virus, and that the government should not subsidize their treatment or insure them.

They specifically pointed out two statements in the article: “Only fair to protect vulnerable in S‘pore against Covid-19 spread by unvaccinated people.” and “People who are not vaccinated face a much higher risk of getting infected and spreading the disease.”

Both statements are supported by scientific consensus. The group did not elaborate on why it found them false.

The group also did not identify the member who filed the lawsuit on Oct. 28.  Healing the Divide did not immediately respond to a message from Coconuts seeking comment.

In response to the group’s next steps, it said that “the wheels of justice turn slowly” and a pre-trial conference is set for the end of the month.  

On Sunday, the Ministry of Health announced that YouTube removed videos that spread misinformation about the vaccines from founder Iris Koh’s channel for violating the platform’s “medical misinformation policy.” She had also been suspended from Facebook previously for the same reasons.

Koh responded to the news saying they are not anti-vaxxers but rather ​​”intelligent vaxxers.” On her site, she publishes rambling pieces filled with misinformation, such as last month’s reality-challenged entry “Can we POFMA Science?”

As of Tuesday, 85% of Singapore has been fully vaccinated.

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