Singapore Government Over-Reacting!

[Editor’s note: The following incidents only further reinforce the impression that the Singapore authority is intolerant of freedom of expression. If Singapore is indeed a first world country as it likes to claim, this practice ought to be changed and changed fast.

Updated 8 Feb 2012: I found an interesting site by Mindblogging Stuff which has, by far, the most detailed chronicles of the many over-reaction events throughout the post-independence history of Singapore. Click here for A chronology of authoritarian rule in Singapore]

Here are just some examples:

Three face investigation for selling British author’s book

Source: Todayonline  Jan 26, 2011
British freelance journalist Alan Shadrake soon may not be the only one to get into trouble with the law over his book on the death penalty here.

Three other people have been summoned by the police over the sale of 12 copies of his book, which has been judged to contain 11 passages scandalising Singapore’s judiciary.

Film-maker Seelan Palay, Singapore Democratic Party member Jarrod Luo and social activist Rachel Zeng – members of the Singaporeans For Democracy political association (SFD) – have to appear tomorrow at the Police Cantonment Complex for an investigation relating to the “sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter”, according to an SFD statement.

As of press time, the police were working on a response to MediaCorp’s queries.

According to SFD, the sale of the books occurred during a film festival in November at The Substation and the arts centre’s artistic director Noor Effendy Ibrahim is assisting the police. Citing the ongoing investigation, The Substation declined comment.

Shadrake’s book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock landed the writer with a six-week jail term, a $20,000 fine and $55,000 in legal costs after his contempt of court conviction in November.

He is appealing against the sentence, while still awaiting the outcome of police investigations over alleged criminal defamation.

His book is not banned but a Media Development Authority spokesman said in reply to queries that distribution would amount to contempt of court given the court’s findings.

Lawyer Chia Boon Teck told MediaCorp the book will be deemed contemptuous unless the Court of Appeal decides otherwise.

“The court ruling stands until it is reversed,” he said. Cheow Xin Yi

Judgment reserved on Shadrake’s contempt conviction

Source: The Straits Times Apr 12,2011

THE Court of Appeal yesterday reserved judgment on British author Alan Shadrake’s appeal against his contempt-of-court conviction.

The case centres on his book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore’s Justice In The Dock, about the death penalty in Singapore.

In November last year, Shadrake, 76, was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and a $20,000 fine – the heaviest punishment handed down here for contempt of court by way of scandalising the judiciary.

He was found by Justice Quentin Loh to have impugned the impartiality, integrity and independence of the courts here in 11 passages in his book. The 11 statements were among 14 cited by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) when it brought contempt proceedings against him last year. The remaining three were not in contempt, ruled the judge.

Shadrake, represented by lawyer M. Ravi, then went to the Court of Appeal.

Yesterday, Mr Ravi argued that Justice Loh had used too low a threshold in determining that his client was liable for contempt.

‘If this book is so dangerous, it’s astonishing that it’s not banned,’ he said, noting that the authorities have only advised retailers that distribution of the book would amount to contempt of court.

He compared Shadrake’s case to that of Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, who was jailed a day for contempt by telling a judge to her face that he did not think the court was independent. In Shadrake’s case, his book was about the death penalty and not focused on the judiciary, argued Mr Ravi.

But Senior Counsel David Chong, for the AGC, argued that such statements as appeared in the book erode the public’s confidence in the authority of the courts.

He likened it to ‘guerilla warfare’ as it was ‘so easy for someone to allege bias on the part of the courts’.

Mr Chong added that Shadrake was unrepentant, noting how the author said he had done nothing wrong, stood by what he said and would continue to distribute the book, even coming up with a second edition.

The hearing dwelt mainly on technical arguments over issues such as the various legal tests for liability for contempt and the interpretation of the passages in the book.

The Court of Appeal, comprising Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang, Justice Lai Siu Chiu and Justice Philip Pillai, reserved judgment after the 21/2-hour appeal.

Shadrake later told The Straits Times a ‘libel-free’ edition of his book is slated for release in Australia and Britain and published by Australia-based Murdoch Books.

Asked if the new edition, which includes his experiences following his arrest, will be on sale here, he said the publisher will not allow the book to be imported into Singapore. The first edition was by a different publisher.

TOC ‘must apply for licences’

Before it can hold its first fundraiser as a political association, The Online Citizen has to apply for at least three licences from the police, it has learnt.

In a note last night on its website, which is being gazetted by the Prime Minister’s Office for engaging in politics, TOC claimed it has to apply for a Public Entertainment License, a house-to-house and street collections licence and a notification to conduct a lucky draw under house gaming rules.

The police were unable to reply at press time to queries, while the blog’s chief editor Joshua Chiang declined to comment on its next course of action.

TOC had intended to hold the “TOC Cassetted, Not a Political Party” event on Saturday, comprising a live performance, games and a lucky draw.

Its note said the police have said TOC would know if the applications are successful before the event. Zul Othman


A Singaporean filmmaker on Wednesday complied with a government order to remove a political film from video sharing site YouTube but said others were defiantly spreading it on the web.

Martyn See said he was ordered by the information ministry to to take down all digital copies of the film from YouTube and his blogsite by July 14 or face up to two years in jail and a fine of 10,000 Singapore dollars (7,100 US).

The banned video titled “Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore” is about a rare public talk in 2009 by Lim Hock Siew, a leftist medical doctor and activist held from 1963 to 1982 during then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew’s rule.

Censors ban Martyn See’s film on Dr Lim Hock Siew

By Claire Huang | Source: Channel News Asia 12 July 2010

Censors have banned the film “Dr Lim Hock Siew” by filmmaker Martyn See Tong Ming, with effect from July 14 under the Films Act, saying it is against ‘public interest’.

A statement from the Information, Communications and the Arts Ministry said the film “gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Dr Lim’s arrests and detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963.”

It added that the government “will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore’s interests in the past, to use media platforms such as films to make baseless accusations against the authorities.”

Neither will it allow such individuals to use films to give a false portrayal to exculpate their guilt, or undermine public confidence in the government.

The film has also not been granted a certificate for its exhibition.

Under the Films Act, possession and distribution of a prohibited film is an offence.

An offender is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding S$10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.

Last September, censors passed “Singapore Rebel”, a film by the same filmmaker which features opposition figure Chee Soon Juan.

It passed with an M18 rating – four years after it was banned.

It became the first political film to make the cut after the Films Act was amended in March to relax the rules on such films.

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