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Censorship in Singapore

Categories: East Asia, Singapore, Citizen Media, Freedom of Speech, Governance, Human Rights, Law, Media & Journalism, Politics

In a space of a month, Singapore authorities caused a major uproar when they banned a film of an ex-political prisoner and arrested a British author who wrote a book about the death penalty in Singapore.


Picture taken from The Online Citizen

On 12 July 2010, the Media Development Authority announced its decision to ban a film (starting from 14 July 2010) depicting Dr Lim Hock Siew speaking publicly on his experience being detained under the Internal Security Act. The film was filmed by Director Martyn See [2]. Mr See was also asked to remove the film from YouTube. You can read the transcripts of the film here [3].

Singaporean blogger, Lucky Tan called [4] for the truth to be told:

Basically what MICA is saying is they banned this film because they want only the truth to be told and this film is full of falsehoods, lies and distortions. Dr Lim Hock Siew was detained for 20 years without trial. During that period, the PAP govt had all the time to show the evidence and tell the truth so that we can all see how wonderful a job the ISD has done to protect us from evil. We are all still waiting.


Picture taken from Jacob Geroge

On 18th July, British author Alan Shadrake was arrested by Singapore police in his hotel on charges of ‘criminal defamation’, a day after his book, Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock, which was critical of the Singapore judicial system was launched. His book was also taken off major bookstores in Singapore.

He was detained for two days in which Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders called for his release.

Singapore socio-political blog, The Online Citizen [6] wondered why Mr Shadrake was charged with criminal defamation:

Alan Shadrake’s book “Once a Jolly Hangman” makes for uncomfortable reading. The book might have made those in power uncomfortable enough to arrest Mr Shadrake on the rarely used draconian charge of criminal defamation.

A Singaporean blog, Chemical Generation Singapore, wrote [7]:

With the arrest of Shadrake, the whole issue is less about the death penalty, and more about where we draw the line on supposed foreign intervention. Cracking down on local politicians getting foreign money and logistics is fine with me. But turning the screws on a foreigner in his book launch, although the foreigner is like a taunting Oliver Fricker and asking for it, is a bit too much in my book. Unless there is more than meets the eye here

Political Activist, Chee Siok Chin accused [8] the Government of having ‘dirty secrets':

Now, which authoritarian regime would want to have it’s “dirty little secrets” blown opened in a book?
The same goes for Dr. Lim Hock Siew’s speech that was put up by Martyn See on Youtube. Of course Martyn had to comply with the MDA who required him to take it down. After all, Dr. Lim spoke about his unlawful 19-year detention without trial by the ISD.
Again, which oppressive regime would want to have the truth told about how it entrenches its power blown open in a video clip that can be accessed by all?