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Singapore to work with New Zealand to tackle terrorism and violent extremism

SINGAPORE — Singapore will work with New Zealand and other countries to tackle terrorism and violent extremism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a press conference held in the Istana during the official visit of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on May 17, 2019.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a press conference held in the Istana during the official visit of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on May 17, 2019.

SINGAPORE — Singapore will work with New Zealand and other countries to tackle terrorism and violent extremism, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said.

Mr Lee made the remarks on Friday (May 17) during a joint press conference at the Istana with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who is on her first official visit to Singapore.

He noted that Ms Ardern was arriving from France, where she had launched the Christchurch Call with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Christchurch Call is a voluntary commitment by governments and technology companies to improve their efforts to tackle the spread of extremist content online.

Singapore is not a signatory to the call.

Launched in response to terror attacks in New Zealand in May, where a lone gunman killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch while livestreaming the massacre on Facebook, it calls for the “effective enforcement” of laws prohibiting the dissemination of terrorist content.

It also states that all action on the issue must be consistent with the principles of a free, open and secure Internet, without compromising freedom of expression.

Thanking Ms Ardern for her leadership in rallying an “effective international response to this serious issue”, Mr Lee said that the call “reaffirms the importance of addressing threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism online”.

Singapore takes the problem of terrorism and violent extremism online “very seriously”, and will work with New Zealand and other countries, as well as online service providers, to tackle the issue, he said.

Responding to a question from reporters on whether he supported the principles of the Christchurch Call, and if the anti-fake-news law recently passed by Singapore were consistent with free speech, Mr Lee said that the Christchurch Call and Singapore’s legislation tackled different aspects of a “big problem”.

Last week, Singapore’s Parliament passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, which will give government ministers broad powers to stop the spread of online falsehoods and act against those who disseminate the falsehoods.

While the Christchurch Call deals with extremist content that may or may not be false, Singapore’s legislation deals with falsehoods and misleading information online, Mr Lee said.

He also said that the laws were not “in any way” restrictive of free speech.

“There are all these rules on what you are allowed to do, in terms of freedom of speech, because no free speech is absolute and (the new law) doesn’t prevent you from saying anything,” he said.

Mr Lee added that the law requires those who spread falsehoods to put up a correction so that people will be aware of the facts. Those who disagree with the correction order can turn to the courts to decide if the statement is misleading or against public interest.

Ms Ardern said that the Christchurch Call was “narrowly defined” to prevent the manner in which extremist content had been spread online on the day of the Christchurch attacks.

“Our starting point is for us to target violent extremism and terrorism online,” she said. “So the call is very focused on that. It talks about eliminating that content and preventing that kind of content from proliferating.”

The Christchurch Call is also about ensuring the resilience of communities and societies against moving into violent extremism, said Ms Ardern, who thanked Singapore for its “swift, warm and genuine” condolences following the attacks.

Related topics

internet social media terrorism extremists violence

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