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Wake Up, Singapore administrator to be charged with defamation over false 2022 report on hospital miscarriage claim

Wake Up, Singapore administrator to be charged with defamation over false 2022 report on hospital miscarriage claim

SINGAPORE, April 24 — An administrator of alternative news site Wake Up, Singapore will be charged in court with criminal defamation today over a false 2022 news report about a miscarriage at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH).

In a statement on Tuesday, the police did not name the individual but described him as a 26-year-old man.

“Investigations revealed that the 26-year-old man was purportedly the administrator for (Wake up, Singapore’s) website, Facebook page and Instagram page,” said the police.

TODAY previously reported based on a search on the national internet registry for Singapore that Ariffin Sha was listed as the “administrative contact” for the Wake Up, Singapore domain name.

Ariffin was at the time a legal trainee and former assistant secretary-general of the Singapore People’s Party.

In response to TODAY’s queries on Tuesday, Ariffin, 26, now a legal executive, confirmed that he is the founder of Wake Up, Singapore and that he will be charged in court on Wednesday.

In its statement on Tuesday, the police said that KKH had lodged a police report over the article, which alleged that the hospital’s mismanagement resulted in a woman suffering a miscarriage.

The article had stated that she waited for hours for Covid-19 treatment at the accident and emergency department in February 2022.

“Upon receiving the police report from KKH, the police consulted the Attorney-General’s Chambers and were authorised to investigate the matter,” said the police on Tuesday.

Allegations in the article were found to be untrue after investigations, the statement added.

Wake Up, Singapore was also issued a correction direction under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act on March 27 by the Ministry of Health (MOH), after the site apologised over the article.

“Notwithstanding (Wake Up, Singapore’s) apology, the allegations are serious and have been circulated to various other platforms. This could lead to the erosion of public trust in the credibility and professionalism of our healthcare system and institutions,” said MOH at the time.

Case background

A first-person account of the purported miscarriage incident was first put up on Wake Up, Singapore on March 23, 2022.

The woman in the article claimed that she was initially denied treatment when she reached KKH, and eventually waited for four hours before a doctor attended to her.

She claimed to have suffered a miscarriage at that time.

A copy of a hospital bill was also posted on the website showing that the supposed hospital visit took place on Feb 28 that year.

However, the hospital later said that there appeared to be discrepancies between the reported account and the bill information shared online, which led to the hospital to make an appeal for the woman to contact KKH directly.

The hospital then announced that it had filed a police report on the matter.

Wake Up, Singapore later issued an apology on its platforms over the matter.

It said that after finding out that the hospital filed a police report, it informed the woman who contacted it with her claims. She later revealed that the information was false.

The alternative news website said that it had acted in “good faith” when it received the tip-off from the alleged patient — whose identity has not been revealed — by verifying her account and asking for proof of her claims.

It said that it was “fed lies at every turn” and that the call logs, invoices and correspondence with the complainant “may have all been doctored”.

When asked for comment, Ariffin referred TODAY back to the apology and account of events the website published in March 2022.

“We are sorry. It was a genuine mistake,” he added on Tuesday.

“Although we were lied to and misled with some documents, there were things that we could have done better. We take full responsibility for the incident and we have since put in place measures to ensure that such an event does not reoccur.”

He added that Wake Up, Singapore has fully cooperated during the course of investigations, “acted swiftly” to inform readers and apologised publicly and privately, on top of complying with the Pofma order issued in 2022.

“Wake Up Singapore is a volunteer-run independent platform and we will continue to strive to do better,” he said.

A person convicted of criminal defamation can be jailed for up to two years, fined or both.

In Singapore, criminal defamation is covered by the Penal Code while separate legislation governs civil defamation lawsuits.