Singapore’s parliament approved a law that gives broad powers to the government to deal with foreign interference, raising concern among the opposition and experts about its broad scope and the limits of judicial oversight.
The small open city-state, which says it is vulnerable to foreign interference, has targeted fake news with sweeping law in 2019, and joins countries like Australia and Russia that have passed laws in recent years to deter foreign interference.
The bill, officially known as the Foreign Interference Countermeasures Act (FICA), was passed Monday evening with 75 members voting in favor, 11 opposition members opposing it and two abstaining, the reporters reported. local media.
Among the measures, FICA allows authorities to force the internet, social media service providers and website operators to provide information about users, block content and remove applications.
People considered or designated as “politically important persons” under the law will have to adhere to strict donation rules and declare their connections to foreign entities.
Instead of a tribunal, an independent tribunal, chaired by a judge, will hear appeals against the minister’s decisions, a decision the government says is necessary to protect national security.
The decisions of the tribunal will be final.
The government has stated that FICA does not cover forming overseas partnerships, soliciting overseas businesses, networking with foreigners, seeking donations, or discussing policies or issues. policies that affect their businesses with colleagues or foreign business partners, or support for charitable organizations.
“As long as they are done in an open and transparent manner, and are not part of an attempt to manipulate our political discourse or undermine the public interest such as security,” said K Shanmugam, minister of the ‘Interior, in parliament.
It will also not affect Singaporeans expressing their own views or engaging in advocacy.
The Home Office has also previously said it would not apply to foreign individuals or publications “who report or comment on Singapore politics in an open, transparent and accountable manner.”
But some critics say its broad language risks capturing even legitimate activity, while rights group Reporters Without Borders has said the law could trap independent media.
Singapore experts and opposition parties have called for reducing the scope of executive powers and more oversight through the judiciary.
The bill was passed without strengthening “the circumscribed checks and balances, especially judicial review,” said Eugene Tan, professor of law at Singapore Management University.
“Although assurances were given, they could have been expressed unequivocally through legislative codification. “
However, Shanmugam said the bill represented the “best balance … between managing risk and putting in place controls against abuse.”