Photo of Lee Hsien Loong from RSF

When questioned by international media over the state of censorship and repression in Singapore, dictator Prime Minister openly faulted Singaporeans saying they voted for it:

“I think when you say ‘strict internal logic’, it is rather a loaded term. Because what you really mean is: Why are we so repressive? The answer is we are not. The ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) won 70 per cent of the popular vote in the last General Election in 2015, which saw every seat contested. Why is the political scene like that? Because that is the way Singaporeans have voted and it is an outcome of the elections.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong then openly lied that he did not stop people from contesting in elections:

“It is not the way it is because we are clamping down and preventing other people from contesting elections.”

In 2017, the Singapore Presidential Election saw only one candidate who was a former PAP MP for 20 years. Two other contestants were disqualified through new “financial requirements”, not applicable on the PAP candidate. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong dictated the 2017 election rules, including re-writing the Constitution to reserve the election for only the Malay race, as he has complete control over the Election Department and the Parliament.

The Singapore Election Department has also written many new election laws in favour of the ruling party PAP, including requiring a S$15,000 deposit per candidate. The deposit was designed to deter participation from average Singaporeans to join the poorly-resourced Opposition parties. The Election Department also created a media censorship day called “Cooling Off Day”, where state media newspapers can run propaganda while non-mainstream media and Opposition candidates are subjected to police arrests if they publish on the day.

When probed further by the international media over the lack of freedom of expression in Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong cunningly threatened that Singaporeans may have freedom, but his laws are ready to arrest them:

“The Speakers’ Corner where individuals may head there to spout forth and relieve their soul of some important thought. But if you insist on going places where you are not supposed to do this, then the rules will have to apply. Individuals are also free to publish on the Internet, but are subject to the laws of sedition, libel and contempt. And people do say whatever they want. If you research what is written, you will see that there is quite a lively discussion.”

The son of former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew has in recent years tightened media regulations, including a compulsory S$50,000 bond for local blogs, to deter average Singaporeans from engaging in discussions on current affairs. News websites that actively promote public discourse have been clamped down. In 2011, TheOnlineCitizen website was gazetted as a political association. In 2015, popular news site The Real Singapore was shut down and it’s two editors were jailed 8 and 10 months each. In 2017, Law Minister K Shanmugam labelled Australian website States Times Review as “fake news”. And earlier in 2018, All Singapore Stuff editor was arrested for “fake news” charges and given an order not to continue publication.

In 2016, Lee Hsien Loong was labelled a “media predator” alongside dictators and terrorists by international press freedom organisation RSF.