Open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
c/o The Embassy of Singapore
12 square de l'Avenue-Foch
Paris, 29 November 2005
Dear Prime Minister,
Reporters Without Borders would like to take advantage of your visit
to France to convey to you a number of concrete recommendations aimed
at achieving a lasting improvement in the situation of press freedom
When foreign journalists recently asked Goh Chok Tong, your
predecessor as prime minister and now senior minister in your
cabinet, about Singapore's position (140th out of 167 countries) in
our 2005 World Press Freedom Index, he said it was a "subjective
measure computed through the prism of Western liberals" and went on
to defend Singapore's control of the news media by arguing that "an
unthinking press is not good for all countries."
More than a year has passed since your administration's installation
and your statements in support of an "open" society, but we have not
observed any significant improvement in the situation of press
We therefore believe that your government should take the follow
measures as a matter of urgency :
1. Cease to systematically bring defamation actions against
Singaporean and foreign news media that try to report Singaporean
news freely (and ask your associates to also stop bringing such
actions). It is unacceptable in a would-be democratic country that
the head of government, his ministers and his associates assail
journalists with lawsuits and thereby force them to adopt to self-
censorship. 2. Amend Singapore's criminal law in order to abolish
prison sentences for press offences. 3. Amend the press law,
especially those aspects concerning the allocation of licences to
publish a newspaper, which prevents the emergence of independent news
media. 4. Repeal the law on newspapers and publications and the law
on films. 5. Amend the national security law by abolishing
administrative detention which has in the past resulted in the
imprisonment of journalists and human rights activists. 6. Amend the
powers of the Media Development Authority so that it is no longer
able to censor and can just make recommendations about television
programmes and films. 7. Allow members of the political opposition
and civil society representatives free access to the public news
media. 8. Guarantee the editorial independence of all the news media
owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) and Media Corporation of
Singapore (Mediacorp). 9. Repeal the law that requires religious and
political website moderators to have a licence, as well as certain
articles on the malicious use of computer technology which permits
the surveillance and arrest of Internet users. 10. Rescind the
requirement of prior permission to hold external news conferences.
The Reporters Without Borders index which you and your closest
associates have publicly questioned measures the state of press
freedom throughout the world. It reflects the level of freedom
enjoyed by journalists and news media in each country and the efforts
undertaken by governments to respect and ensure respect for this
We stand by our position that this world press freedom ranking, in
which Singapore's position has remained virtually unchanged, is based
on hard facts and not on subjective interpretation.
In recent months, for example, we have seen police harassment of
documentary filmmaker Martyn See and threats of lawsuits against the
business news website FinanceAsia.com.
We regret that you, members of your government and your father, the
former prime minister, continue to argue that control of the media
and the maintenance of draconian legislation is necessary to ensure
Singapore's stability. We would like point out that countries such as
Denmark and Finland that most respect press freedom are peaceful
democracies. Free expression is not a source of political unrest,
quite the contrary.
Mr. Prime Minister, there are simple measures that can be taken to
encourage both economic development and free expression at the same
time. Do not miss this chance to turn Singapore into a prosperous and
We also seize this opportunity to again draw your attention to the
situation of Ching Cheong, the Hong Kong-based correspondent of the
Singaporean daily The Straits Times, who has been in prison in China
for more than six months. We urge you to redouble your efforts to
obtain his release as soon as possible.
We would be very honoured to be able to meet you in order to give you
a personal presentation of our comments and proposals for ensuring
press freedom in Singapore.
Forum: the Sammyboy.com's Alfresco Coffee Hub Forum
From: dickydick 20:54 To: ALL 10 of 10
30 Nov 2005
Using an ANONYMOUS email to support the thesis that majority of
Australians support hanging ?
Anonymous email == Aussie media cannot interview the guy and verify
his support of death penalty for Nguyen.
Notice the damning sentence " The Straits Times report on the unnamed
Australian carried no reporter's byline. The email was not released
to the foreign media based in Singapore. "
This is the latest masterpiece from the propaganda Shitty Times.
These guys have no credibility at all.
Aussies want Nguyen to hang: paper
By Jake Lloyd-Smith in Singapore, November 30, 2005
SINGAPORE'S main newspaper claims ordinary Australians support the
city-state's decision to hang condemned trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen.
The Straits Times today cited an email sent to Singapore Foreign
Minister George Yeo from a man whose 40-year-old son and daughter in
law were said to be drug addicts.
The man, who asked to remain anonymous, expressed anger at those who
showed sympathy for drug peddlers such as Nguyen who is to hang.
The report entitled "Few Aussies against Nguyen hanging, says
addict's dad" concluded that: "His email coming amid criticism from
human rights and other activists, suggests ordinary Australians hold
a different view and back Singapore".
Nguyen was caught in transit at Changi Airport in 2002 with almost
400 grams of heroin and is scheduled to hang at dawn on Friday
despite repeated pleas for mercy from the Australian Government, his
family, and the Catholic Church.
Today's article hit the newsstands just hours after Nguyen's
Australian lawyer, Lex Lasry QC, launched a blistering attack on
Singapore's death penalty regime as he arrived for a final meeting
with the Melbourne man.
"It's time (for Singapore) to change. You can't hang people under a
mandatory death regime," Mr Lasry said.
"Singapore is going to have to change this regime. It simply is not
acceptable for a first-world country."
Tomorrow is Nguyen's last full day alive after all appeals for
clemency were rejected.
There is still no word from authorities here whether Kim Nguyen will
be allowed to hug her 25-year-old son when she sees him for the last
The Straits Times report on the unnamed Australian carried no
reporter's byline. The email was not released to the foreign media
based in Singapore.
The report went on to describe the contents of the email, which
talked about the difficulties faced by the father coping with his son
and daughter-in-law's addiction.
"I have the heartbreaking experience of dragging my son from our
toilet with a needle in his arm, and he had stopped breathing," the
email was quoted as saying.
"If it hadn't been for his wife knowing what to do, he would have
died," it said.
The email said that Australians backed the city-state's decision to
Singapore main print and broadcast media, including the Straits
Times, is firmly tied to the ruling People's Action Party government,
which has run the country uninterrupted since independence for 40
The local media are not free in the mainstream western sense, but
support what officials call nation-building.
The email to Mr Yeo said few Australians would support a call for a
minute's silence on Friday for Nguyen.
In a separate article, the paper said at least two media surveys
conducted in Australia showed support for Singapore's stand in the
Comments: Mellanie Hewlitt
21 June 2005
Attached below are six basic recommendations by Reporters Without
Borders and the OSCE to ensure freedom of expression on the internet.
It is not surprising that none (not even one) of the six basic
requirements are fullfilled in Singapore.
Reporters Without Borders and the OSCE make six recommendations to
ensure freedom of expression on the Internet.
This declaration by Reporters Without Borders and the representative
of the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) on
Freedom of the Media aims to deal with the main issues facing
countries seeking to regulate online activity. Should the Web be
filtered ? Can online publications be forced to register with the
authorities ? What should the responsibility of service providers
(ISPs) be ? How far does a national jurisdiction extend ?
Reporters Without Borders thinks the six recommendations go beyond
Europe and concern every country. It hopes they will provoke
discussion in the run-up to the World Summit on the Information
Full text of the Declaration :
1. Any law about the flow of information online must be anchored in
the right to freedom of expression as defined in Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
2. In a democratic and open society it is up to the citizens to
decide what they wish to access and view on the Internet. Filtering
or rating of online content by governments is unacceptable. Filters
should only be installed by Internet users themselves. Any policy of
filtering, be it at a national or local level, conflicts with the
principle of free flow of information.
3. Any requirement to register websites with governmental authorities
is not acceptable. Unlike licensing scarce resources such as
broadcasting frequencies, an abundant infrastructure like the
Internet does not justify official assignment of licenses. On the
contrary, mandatory registration of online publications might stifle
the free exchange of ideas, opinions, and information on the
4. A technical service provider must not be held responsible for the
mere conduit or hosting of content unless the hosting provider
refuses to obey a court ruling. A decision on whether a website is
legal or illegal can only be taken by a judge, not by a service
provider. Such proceedings should guarantee transparency,
accountability and the right to appeal.
5. All Internet content should be subject to the legislation of the
country of its origin ("upload rule") and not to the legislation of
the country where it is downloaded.
6. The Internet combines various types of media, and new publishing
tools such as blogging are developing. Internet writers and online
journalists should be legally protected under the basic principle of
the right to freedom of expression and the complementary rights of
privacy and protection of sources.
Censored S'poreans take to the Internet for free speec
3 June 2005
The events leading up to Shanmugam Murugesu's execution in Singapore
had enough excitement, anguish and cries of injustice for a fast-
paced novel, or at the very least an interesting news story.
But in this Southeast Asian city-state where the mediais ordered to
report in the "national interests", the pleas for mercy from
Murugesu's twin 14-year-old sons and his eventual hanging last month
for importing marijuana received only a passing mention in the
"11th hour bid fails, it's death for trafficker", the Straits Times
newspaper reported on its inside pages, while the main English news
radio station failed to report on his hanging.
Just a few mouse clicks away, however, members of a brave new world
pulled no punches in voicing their repugnance over what they
described as Singapore's ruthless drug laws.
"The way our country functions, clamouring for first-world status yet
maintaining draconian laws for less serious crimes like (Murugesu's),
speaks much of the leaders and the justice system,"
wrote "realtuakee", one of 70 users on online forum Sammyboy's
Alfresco Coffee Shop (http://forums.delphiforums.com) to criticise
Indeed, with the traditional media shackled by press controls and a
virtual blanket ban on public rallies -- Reporters Without Borders
ranks Singapore 147th out of 167 countries on press freedom -- the
Internet has emerged over recent years as a hotbed for Singapore's
Numerous Internet forums, such as Singapore Review
(http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review/) and the satirical
TalkingCock.com(www.talkingcock.com), offer refreshing, often bold,
insights into Singapore life
"The Internet remains the only medium that's free from discretionary
licensing by the authorities," Cherian George, a media lecturer at
Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, told AFP.
"One can't say that it allows 'free speech' in the strictest sense,
but the space for critical speech is certainly greater online than
Blogs, already wildly popular among Singapore's tech-savvy youths as
online diaries, are also turning up with a nascent political spin.
Visible on http://singaporerebel.blogspot.com are the perennial
struggles the city-state's filmmakers face as they battle to avoid
the snip of government censors.
"No political films please, we're Singaporeans," screams the home
page of freelance video editor Martyn See's blog, a caustic jibe at
the government's famous intolerance for any form of political dissent.
See, who is under police investigation for making a documentary about
vocal opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, posts articles and
comments on his blog castigating the city-state's ambiguous film laws.
In one of his recent entries, he mused: "The Films Act of Singapore
seems to be scripted by a group of brilliant horror story writers.
Difference is, the horror is real. The spooks do show up in your
Government clampdown on online dissidents
In another recent sign the Internet is starting to play the role in
Singapore that tradional media does in most other developed nations,
an anti-casino online petition set up last December gathered close to
Even though the government decided in April to proceed with plans to
build two casinos on the island, the response gave the organisers
much cause for hope.
"I'm happy that people were willing to come forth and say 'I stand on
this side of the line'," Fong Hoe Fang, one of the founding members
of the group, told AFP.
"So many individuals who dared to put their names and addresses and
identity card numbers against what is perceived as a government
initiative -- this is very rare in Singapore as the fear factor is
Yet, despite the encouraging signs, civil rights activists say the
day when Singaporeans can freely engage in rambunctious political
debate on the Internet without fear of reprisal from the authorities
remains a long way off.
"The laws are restrictive, political websites have to be registered,
and hence are open to libel and defamation charges for the contents,"
Sinapan Samydorai, president of local civil liberties group the Think
Centre, told AFP.
Legislation passed in late 2003 also allows government security
agencies to launch pre-emptive strikes, such as deploying scanning
programmes, to weed out those suspected of using computers to
endanger national security and essential public services.
Even though authorities insisted that the new powers would be non-
intrusive in nature, critics have likened them to the Internal
Security Act, which has been used to detain political dissidents and
other people deemed "national threats" without trial.
Samydorai was one of the most outspoken critics when the law was
introduced, warning then it could be used as an "instrument of
Adding to fears the government is widening its scope to clamp down on
Internet dissidents, a government agency threatened last month to sue
a Singaporean student after he posted "defamatory statements" on his
After initially trying to stand up to the city-state's Agency for
Science, Technology and Research (ASTAR), former government scholar
Chen Jia Hao, a chemical physics student at the University of
Illinois in the United States, shut down his blog and unreservedly
apologised for unspecified comments.
Nanyang Technological University's George, who also wrote the local
political bestseller: 'Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation', said
the government would not give up in its quest for greater control of
the Internet as online dissent continued to expand.
"There'll be Singaporeans who want to use the Internet in a more
underground way, to spread their ideas without exposing themselves,"
"Technology will only probably give them new solutions, at least for
a while, until the authorities catch up again."
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