International human rights NGO, Front Line Defenders (FLD), has condemned the S$5,000 fine issued to local community worker Jolovan Wham for contempt of court.
On 27 April 2018, Mr Wham published a comment on social media about the independence of Singapore’s judges compared to Malaysia’s as he linked an article entitled “Malaysiakini mounts constitutional challenge against Anti-Fake News Act.”
Days later, on 6 May, Singapore Democratic Party vice-chairman John Tan commented on Facebook that “by charging Jolovan for scandalising the judiciary, the AGC (Attorney-General’s Chambers) only confirms what he said was true.”
The authorities initiated action against both Mr Wham and Mr Tan and the High Court fined both men. This sentence means that Mr Tan will not be able to contest in the next General Election.
Mr Wham, who will be jailed for a week if he refuses to pay the fine, is also required to pay an additional S$5000 in costs and nearly S$3,000 in disbursements to the Attorney-General’s Chambers on top of the fine. The activist, who has since said that he has done nothing wrong and that he has nothing to apologise for, is planning to appeal the sentence.
In a statement published on Wednesday (1 May), FLD condemned the fine that was issued to Mr Wham. Calling Mr Wham a “human rights defender”, the NGO noted that Mr Wham’s case is “the first conviction to be made under the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act 2016 since it came into effect in October 2017.”
Asserting that the bill “is widely considered to be a threat to freedom of expression and assembly if used by authorities to criminalise free expression and peaceful assembly, as it has been used in this case,” FLD called the fine against Mr Wham “part of an intensifying pattern of judicial harassment that he has faced since September 2017.”
Calling on the authorities to overturn the sentence, FLD wrote: “Front Line Defenders condemns the unjust punishment of Jolovan Wham as it believes that the human rights defender is being prosecuted solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights.
“Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Singapore to overturn the sentence handed out to him and to ensure that human rights defenders in the country can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly without fear of reprisal and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment.”
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