Amnesty International questions freedom of expression in Singapore
In its annual survey of the human rights records of countries from around the world, Amnesty International expressed concern about Singapore, saying that the People’s Action Party (PAP) “continued to penalize government critics for exercising their right to freedom of expression.”
Well, that’s a rather harsh accusation to throw around.
Just who are these “government critics” who were punished for “exercising their right to freedom of expression”? Let’s take a look.
Pointing out freedom of expression as an area of concern in Singapore, Amnesty International brought up the issue of 16-year-old Amos Yee who, was sentenced to four weeks’ jail, backdated to 2 Jun 2015.
He was found guilty for making offensive remarks against Christianity and another for circulating obscene imagery. A third charge, on his statements about Mr Lee Kuan Yew in a YouTube video, was withdrawn.
Amos was detained in Changi Prison after he refused probation. The United Nations had also urged Singapore to release him, saying that it was concerned that the criminal sanctions “seem disproportionate and inappropriate in terms of the international protections for freedom of expression and opinion”.
It asked to “give special consideration to his juvenile status and ensure his treatment is consistent with the best interests of the child” in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Singapore is a party.
The Real Singapore
Amnesty International also highlighted now defunct news website, The Real Singapore (TRS), whose license was suspended by Media Development Authority (MDA) after it published articles that “sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore”.
The two faced seven counts of sedition and a charge under the Penal Code for failure to produce documents required by the police.
MDA had suspended TRS’ license to operate, even before its ongoing court case has been concluded.
Human rights lawyer M. Ravi was temporarily suspended from his practice since February 2015 “on health grounds”. He handled cases involving the death penalty; freedom of expression; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) workers’ rights; and the rights of foreign workers facing deportation.
While Singapore Law Society maintained that his mental condition was the reason his certificate was not renewed, Amnesty International points out that there were concerns that the move may have been politically motivated.
M Ravi is part of The Reform Party where he was fielded to compete for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) during the 2015 general elections.
The Amnesty International report surveys human rights records of countries around the world. The full report can be read here.
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