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Freedom of speech: S’pore in the eyes the world?

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By: Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the High Commissioner of Singapore, London’s letter “Free speech in Singapore” (The Economist, Mar 17).

It states that ““Grumble and be damned” (March 11th) alleged a lack of free speech in Singapore. Yet Singaporeans have free access to information and the internet, including to The Economist and the BBC. We do not stifle criticism of the government. But we will not allow our judiciary to be denigrated under the cover of free speech, nor will we protect hate or libellous speech. People can go to court to defend their integrity and correct falsehoods purveyed against them. Opposition politicians have done this, successfully.

You cited the case of three protesters convicted for creating a public nuisance at Speakers’ Corner. They were not charged for criticising the government, but for loutishly barging into a performance by a group of special-education-needs children, frightening them and denying them the right to be heard.”

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I googled and found that the following organisations have issued statements in regards to the above case at Speakers’ Corner:

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association” (Jun 16,2016)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) – “Conviction of three peaceful protestors condemned” (Feb 22, 2017)

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders – “To the Singapore Government vide the Ambassador of Singapore to the United nations” (Oct 30, 2015)

Amnesty International – “Conviction of activists must be overturned” (Feb 21, 2017)

Human Rights Watch – “World Report 2015 on Singapore

Frontlinedefenders: – “Human Rights Defender Han Hui Hui case file

It would appear from the above that the weight of world opinion seems to be contrary to Singapore’s.

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