Photo of Lee Hsien Loong from CNA

In a damning 133-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) today (Dec 13), the international non-government group criticised the Singapore laws  as repressive and called for the dictatorship to amend or repeal laws allowing greater freedom of speech and public assembly.

“Beneath the slick surface of gleaming high-rises, however, it is a repressive place, where the Government severely restricts what can be said, published, performed, read, or watched. Singapore promotes itself as a modern nation and a good place to do business, but people in a country that calls itself a democracy shouldn’t be afraid to criticise their government or speak out about political issues…

The Singapore Government’s laws limiting critical speech and peaceful assembly are overly broad and and used to “arrest, harass, and prosecute critical voices. This makes the country a repressive place severely restricting what can be said and published. The Singapore Government should amend or repeal laws and rules that restrict speech and assembly and drop charges against individuals for peaceful speech and assembly.”

According to HWR, the findings were resulted from a series of interview with local activists, lawyers, journalists, academics and opposition political members – many expressing their views on conditions of anonymity out of fear of the dictatorship government.

In Singapore, it is an offense to create a website or Facebook page commenting on daily current affairs without registering with the government and placing a S$50,000 “good behaviour” bond.

In 2015, two website editors of The Real Singapore were jailed 8 and 10 months for writing news critical of the Singapore government. Blogger Roy Ngerng was also sued and made to pay S$150,000 in defamation to the dictator Prime Minister, after he criticised the government’s CPF retirement system and the country’s two sovereign wealth fund companies. Currently, the nephew of PM Lee Hsien Loong, Li Shengwu, is currently facing contempt of court charges over a private Facebook post, which criticised the Singapore government and judiciary.