Academic activities are not threatened by anti-foreign interference law: MHA, Politics News & Top Stories

SINGAPORE – Academics presenting research abroad, writing for international journals and receiving international funding will not fall under the proposed law to combat foreign interference, the Home Office (MHA) said in a Facebook post on Sunday October 3.

The ministry responded to academics Cherian George, Chong Ja Ian, Linda Lim and Teo You Yenn who expressed concern, in an editorial posted on on Friday, that the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Bill ( Fica), in its current form, “would suddenly turn currently promoted activities into a legal minefield”.

The editorial listed various activities that could potentially be threatened by the Fica passage, including “presenting research at conferences abroad; write for international journals and multi-author book projects; publish and edit for prestigious university presses; participate in international collaborative research projects. ; participation in scholarships, visiting appointments and training programs; and participation in international funding opportunities ”.

The MHA said: “Please allow us to state without reservation: none of these activities will be affected by the Fica.

“If professors manage to get their articles accepted in international journals, their books published by prestigious university presses abroad, or if they receive splendid scholarships and awards from any foreign university, they will not encounter any obstacle on the part of Fica – or for that matter, any other law in Singapore. “

Fica targets foreign interference in domestic politics through hostile information campaigns and local proxies.

It grants the MHA the power to issue instructions forcing internet platforms to block accounts and to require politically important people to declare their foreign affiliations, among other things.

MHA added that Fica will also not hinder other examples of Singaporean academics involved in foreign collaborations and online broadcasting cited by the editorial:

– A doctoral student who challenges “the criminalization of gay sex” in an online cultural studies journal published by a research center based at Osaka University;

– A journal article in Asia Bioethic Review highlighting the “multiple barriers to access” to health care faced by migrant workers in Singapore, one of the co-authors of which is employed by a university in Singapore. foreigner ;

– A political scientist attending a webinar sponsored by the University of Sydney on “Current political issues in Singapore”.

The ministry said: “What possible reason can Fica apply in any of these cases?”

The MHA added that the Fica would only apply if the Singaporean academic in question acts on behalf of a foreign agency to carry out a hostile online information campaign directed against the Singapore public interest, so as to create discord and unrest among Singaporeans.

“The discussion on a number of controversial issues – in foreign journals, in foreign conferences, in foreign universities – will not be affected by Fica,” he said.

The professors who wrote the editorial said internationalization is one of the criteria taken into account in university rankings and acknowledged that Singaporean universities occupy “stratospheric positions in international rankings”.

But this “enviable” reputation could not have been earned if the Singapore government were as oppressive and authoritarian as the editorial suggests, MHA argued.

The ministry also noted that the same group of professors had raised similar concerns for academics about the passage of the Fake News Act, Protection Against Falsehood and Online Manipulation (Pofma) Act, but none. academic article has only been stopped by Pofma to this day. .

He added: “Our academics have remained free to pursue any research they wish on any subject, and the international rankings of our universities have not been affected as a result of Pofma. We are certain that Fica will allow the same in the future. “

The Fica will be debated during the session of Parliament on Monday. A petition calling for further consideration of the bill was submitted on behalf of civil society groups by Progress Party Singapore constituency MP Leong Mun Wai.

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