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S'pore govt directs M'sian NGO and others to correct ‘baseless’ allegations about execution practices

SINGAPORE — Several organisations and a freelance journalist have been directed to carry correction notices alongside their social media posts or articles related to the alleged use of unlawful methods of execution at Changi Prison.

The Ministry of Home Affairs clarified in its statement that all judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others.

The Ministry of Home Affairs clarified in its statement that all judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others.

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SINGAPORE — Several organisations and a freelance journalist have been directed to carry correction notices alongside their social media posts or articles related to the alleged use of unlawful methods of execution at Changi Prison.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a media release on Wednesday (Jan 22) that it had directed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue these notices to the Malaysian-based non-governmental organisation Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC), online news site Yahoo News Singapore and freelance journalist Kirsten Han.

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

On Jan 16 this year, LFL had issued a statement on their website claiming to have information from a Singapore Prison Services (SPS) officer who had served at the execution chamber in Changi Prison and personally carried out hangings.

The LFL said that this officer had told them about a “brutal hanging method” employed at Changi Prison, and that, among other things, prison officers were required to kick the back of the neck of a prisoner who had been sentenced to death with great force in order to break it whenever a rope broke during hanging.

This statement was subsequently picked up and shared online by TOC, Yahoo News Singapore and Ms Han.

The MHA said on Wednesday that the allegations by the LFL are “untrue, baseless and preposterous”.

The ministry noted that the LFL also made spurious allegations that prison officers were “given special training to carry out the brutal execution method”, that the Singapore Government approved of these unlawful methods, and suggested that specific measures had been adopted to cover up these methods.

“These allegations are entirely unfounded,” the MHA said. “For the record, the rope used for judicial executions has never broken before, and prison officers certainly do not receive any ‘special training to carry out the brutal execution method’ as alleged.”

The MHA clarified in its statement that all judicial executions are conducted in the presence of the Superintendent of the Prison and a medical doctor, among others.

It added that the law also requires a coroner, who is a Judicial Officer of the State Courts, to conduct an inquiry within 24 hours of the execution to ensure the execution was carried out duly and properly.

“No effort is spared to ensure that all judicial executions in Singapore are carried out in strict compliance with the law,” said the MHA. “Any acts such as those described in the LFL statement would have been thoroughly investigated and dealt with.”

The ministry also said that the LFL has been “publishing various falsehoods” in the hopes of getting Malaysian prisoners, who have been convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to death in Singapore, off the death penalty.

“Those who traffic drugs in Singapore, harm and destroy the lives of countless Singaporeans. These traffickers must be prepared to face the consequences of their actions,” it said.

“Regrettably, there are some individuals and groups in Singapore who are spreading LFL’s latest allegations.”

When contacted, Yahoo News Singapore's Editor-in-chief Esther Au Yong said they are "looking into the matter and will respond in due course".

In a Facebook post on Wednesday morning, Ms Han confirmed that she had received the correction direction, and told her followers that she had until 8am on Friday to comply and was deciding on how to proceed.

She added that she had reached out to the SPS on Jan 16 for comments on the LFL’s allegations, the same day that she had shared the LFL article on her Facebook.

“Such information is usually very hard to come by, but in the light of such disturbing claims, I thought it was important for there to be more information about what actually happens in the execution chamber,” said Ms Han, who described herself as someone who has been invested in the issue of the death penalty for a long time.

“When I received no response, I followed up with the prison on 17 January. Still no response,” she added. “Instead of responding to media queries, a Pofma order was made instead.”

Meanwhile, TOC said in a Facebook post on Wednesday that it has filed an application to the minister to cancel the correction direction.

It added: "The minister has three days to consider the application before TOC can take the matter to the court."

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Pofma Ministry of Home Affairs Changi Prison

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