Reporters without Borders (RSF) yesterday (April 22) published a damning report on Singapore’s press freedom with specific reference to the political persecution of The Real Singapore and defamation suit against Roy Ngerng. RSF lambaste Singapore’s censorship board, the Media Devlopment Authority (MDA), and the country’s oppressive censorship laws for repressing journalism in Singapore.
You may view the official statement here.
“The Media Development Authority Act, the Films Act and the Broadcasting Act empower the Media Development Authority (MDA) to censor journalistic content, including online content. In April 2015, this government agency ordered the closure of The Real Singapore (TRS) news website because of content regarded as overly critical. Two of its alleged contributors were accused of “sedition,” which is punishable by 21 years in prison. Defamation suits are common in the city-state and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has personally brought prosecutions against bloggers.”
Earlier this year, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was awarded S$150,000 in damages for a defamation lawsuit he won in a default judgment against an online blogger who criticised him and his wife for conflict of interests. Lee Hsien Loong is both the Prime Minister and Chairman of the country’s sovereign wealth fund (SWF) company, GIC Pte Ltd. His wife, Ho Ching, is the CEO of Singapore’s other SWF company, Temasek Holdings. The two SWF companies borrow the country’s CPF fund at cheap interest rates as low as 2.5% under legislation approved by the Prime Minister himself, while reaping undisclosed profits from their investment returns.
Also earlier in March, the editor of The Real Singapore, Ai Takagi, was sentenced to 10 months’ jail. She is currently 3 months’ pregnant, but the Singapore Court did not consider it as a mitigating factor. The Real Singapore was Singapore’s most popular website with readership exceeding that of the mainstream paper, The Straits Times. The Singapore government trumped up charges with only one key witness in the case, the Police Investigation Officer himself.
Singapore’s mainstream media is controlled solely by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and even his sister Lee Wei Ling was censored, which led to a public spat between the two. In their exchange, the Prime Minister was labelled “a dishonourable man” who is building a dynasty for himself.
Perceived corruption in Singapore is one of the lowest in the world due to consistent and immersive propaganda effort. The single party government legislate practices that could have otherwise been considered corruption in any functioning democracy like million dollar ministerial salaries and allowing MPs to tender for government jobs in their constituencies. Corruption in Singapore is similar to it’s neighbour Malaysia, where PM Lee’s counterpart, PM Najib Razak, remain free from prosecution charges and his critics are equally jailed or bankrupted.