Foreign interference bill has proportionality requirement, says MHA in response to comments from senior lawyer

The editorial highlighted several activities that could be included as “foreign connections”: presenting research at conferences abroad, writing for international journals and multi-author book projects, publishing and editing for press. prestigious academics, participate in international collaborative research projects, participate in scholarships, visits and training programs; and participation in international funding opportunities.

The activities that are currently being encouraged would then suddenly turn into a “legal minefield”.

The editorial also noted that FICA does not provide exceptions that even the sedition law specifies.

“While even the colonial-era sedition law may give a nod to the vital importance of political criticism in a democracy, it cannot be unreasonable to expect FCIA to do so. same.”

ALLEGED THREATENED ACTIVITIES WILL NOT BE AFFECTED: MHA

In response to the Academia.sg editorial, the MHA said in a Facebook post on Sunday morning that the “allegedly threatened activities” highlighted in the editorial would not be affected by FCIA.

MHA also listed examples cited by Academia.sg of Singaporean academics involved in “foreign collaborations and online dissemination,” saying FICA would not hinder any of them.

“The FICA would only apply if the Singaporean academic in each of these cases acted on behalf of a foreign agency to carry out a hostile online information campaign directed against the Singapore public interest – for example, to create discord and unrest among Singaporeans, ”the ministry said.

“The discussion of a number of controversial issues – in foreign journals, in foreign conferences, in foreign universities – will not be affected by FICA. “

The MHA noted that academics also raised concerns for academia when POFMA was first adopted, but no academic papers have been stopped by POFMA to date.

“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 sure that FICA will also enable the same in the future, ”said MHA.

“INCOMPLETE AND NON-CONCLUSIVE” MHA INSURANCE

On Sunday afternoon, Academia.sg responded to MHA’s response, describing the ministry’s assurance as “incomplete and inconclusive”.

“It is incomplete because it only deals with particular stages of academic research, such as journal publication and presentation at conferences. It overlooks the fact that research is a long, multi-stage process,” he said. he said, pointing to a survey of academics in Singapore who reported non-academic pressure to change the results even before publication.

Academia.sg has highlighted a gap between MHA’s statements of intent and non-intent, and the actual language of FICA, on the other hand, challenging the need to broadly define key terms in a way that covers the legitimate work of academics and other active citizens.

“A simple reading of the language of FICA is tantamount to a powerful declaration of unease in the face of debates on controversial issues. It will nurture a culture that already strongly discourages critical and public academic work, encouraging greater self-censorship on the part of university administrators. “, did he declare. .

“We hope that these concerns are not swept aside by the rush to legislate against malicious foreign interference.”

The FCIA will be debated during the sitting of Parliament on Monday.


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