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Open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong

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  • sg_review
    http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15721&var_recherche=open+letter%2C+singapore Open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Prime Minister Lee Hsien
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2005

      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
      75116 Paris

      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
      in Singapore.

      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
      free country.

      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.

      Yours sincerely,

      Robert Ménard


      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
      hang Nguyen.

      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
      Nguyen case.


      Comments: Mellanie Hewlitt
      21 June 2005
      Singapore Review

      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
      Society (WSIS).

      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
      mainstream press.

      "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
      the execution.

      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
      dissenting voices.

      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
      and politics.

      "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
      30,000 signatures.

      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
      really great."

      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,"
      he said.

      "Technology will only probably give them new solutions, at least for
      a while, until the authorities catch up again."

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