Tag Archives: Singapore

Prejudice: A Natural Outcome of Censorship

China Digital Times pulled a great item from an interview with Chinese publisher Bao Pu and writers Guo Xiaolu and Hao Qun (who goes by the pen name Murong Xuecun) from the June 3 issue of Foreign Policy.

The blockage of the Internet by the Chinese government means, said the authors and publisher, that people are not getting enough information to make rational decisions.

[R]elatively few people actually bypass censored information on the Internet. But why? Censorship in the long run breeds prejudice. Once you have this prejudice, you think you know everything, but you don’t. That’s why they’re not actively seeking — because they think there’s nothing out there. It’s a vicious cycle.

I have long argued that censorship means the people of a country will begin to rely more on rumors and prejudices than on cold hard facts. China’s rulers, however, say too much unregulated (censored) information leads to social instability.

What they really mean is that once people start thinking critically, the iron-heel rule of the Communist Party in China will be weakened.

And what goes for China goes for other dictatorships. Think Iran, Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe. Even the leaders in proto-dictatorships such as Singapore and Malaysia want to control all forms of media to protect their hold on power.

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Filed under Africa, Asia, Censorship, China, Freedom of Information, Middle East, Press Freedom

Sedition laws are always bad news, Singapore latest example

The owners of The Real Singapore were hit with seven charges of sedition for publishing material that promotes “ill-will and hostility between groups of people in Singapore.”

Four of the seven alleged hostile items were from letters from the public and not from the editorial staff of TRS.

Singapore has never been known as a bastion of free press or freedom of expression.

Freedom House ranks Singapore as Partly Free for its politics.

The opening paragraph of the civil liberties section in the most recent Freedom House report sums it all up:

The government maintains that racial sensitivities and the threat of Islamist terrorism justify draconian restrictions on freedoms of speech, but such rules have been used to silence criticism of the authorities. Singapore’s media remain tightly constrained. All domestic newspapers, radio stations, and television channels are owned by companies linked to the government.

Singapore media are ranks as NOT FREE by Freedom House. Again, a summary paragraph speaks volumes:

Freedoms of speech and expression are guaranteed by Article 14 of the constitution, but there are restrictions on these rights. The Newspapers and Printing Presses Act, the Defamation Act, the Internal Security Act (ISA), and articles in the penal code allow the authorities to block the circulation of news deemed to incite violence, arouse racial or religious tensions, interfere in domestic politics, or threaten public order, the national interest, or national security. The Sedition Act, in effect since the colonial period, outlaws seditious speech, the distribution of seditious materials, and acts with “seditious tendency.”

The battle for press and civic freedoms in Singapore are not new. The structure of Singapore’s economy is such that people are used to making choices for themselves in the economic sphere. Almost immediately, people began wondering why they are able to make their own choices for work and consumer purchases but not make their own choices for political leadership. And with that wondering came the natural inclination to criticize the government and other aspects of society.

Freedom House notes there has been movement on the political front.

There were several signs in 2013 that the ruling party’s monopoly on power was weakening. The opposition Workers’ Party increased its presence in Parliament by winning a January by-election, and citizens mounted a number of demonstrations—some of them unusually large—on issues including government plans on immigration, new internet regulations, and gay rights.

But progress is slow and the laws in place still allow for actions that could place a pair of twenty-somethings in jail for more than 21 years, for just reporting what is going on and letting people have a say in a public forum.

And, just for fun, let us not forget this is the country that sentenced a teenager to caning for deliberately scratching cars, that banned chewing gum because people were not disposing of their gum the proper way and the place that put signs in the reflecting pool around a major government building that said “Do not walk on the water”.

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Filed under Asia, Censorship

No Surprise: Singapore arrests blogger who posted anti-government notes on Facebook

Seems that the government of the very “fine” land of Singapore — fines for littering, fines for chewing gum, fines for walking on the grass, etc. — remains intolerant of anyone saying something bad about it or the ruling party.

Abdul Malik Ghazali was arrested after he posted comments on Facebook critical of how Singapore is running the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. Special attention was paid in those comments to the minister for community development, youth and sports.

AFP reports (Singaporean arrested for anti-gov’t remarks on Facebook) that Malik’s postings on his own Facebook page highlighted recent floods in Singapore, the escape of detained terror suspect Mas Selamat Kastari, the amount of money spent to host the games and reports of the poor standard of food served for games volunteers.

He said it was time to “burn” the sports minister and the ruling party.

“Rally together and vote them out!!!” he wrote.

Abdul Malik said in comments published Wednesday by The New Paper that “the comment is a metaphor”.

“I did not intend for it to be taken literally. I did not mean for someone to actually burn,” he said.

The Singapore government takes a dim view of any dissent it cannot control. Government leaders have successfully sued dissidents for libel. In some cases the lawsuits have bankrupted political organizations.

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Singapore called on to stop harassment of journalist

The Asian Human Rights Commission sent out a letter from the International Federation for Human Rights in support of journalist Alan Shadrake.

An Open Letter from the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Seems Shadrake wrote a book that questioned the impartiality and independence of the Singapore judicial system and got arrested for it.

The FIDH said Shadrake was reportedly kept awake for interrogation for extended period of time and he asked to explain each of the chapters in his book, his research and the reasons behind authoring the book. Shadrake was critical of the use of the death penalty in his book.

The FIDH said the action by the Singapore judiciary creates a climate of fear and restricts the openness of public discussion on sensitive issues. The organization adds that investigative journalism is not a crime in Singapore. Therefore, the arrest of Shadrake  brings into question the independence and integrity of the very institution it is accusing Mr. Shadrake of impugning, namely its judiciary.

For all its official pronouncements of allowing free and open discussion, the Singapore government more often acts like a petty dictatorship than a liberal democracy.

But of course, we have known for a long time the true nature of Singapore’s government. Remember this is the government that banned gum chewing because too many people would toss their gum on the street instead of using a trash bin.

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Filed under Asia, Censorship, Harassment