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Local groups call for greater freedom of expression in Singapore as Jolovan Wham faces investigations

They urge for the “rigorous review” of laws and regulations that heavily restrict freedom of expression in the name of public order, foreign interference and, contempt of court.

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Singapore – On Mar 26 (Tues), 25 different local groups released a statement calling for greater freedom of expression in light of the charges against Jolovan Wham.

“We are a group of citizens who are deeply troubled by the mounting charges that social worker and human rights advocate Jolovan Wham faces in Singapore courts,” began the statement.

It was in 2017 when six local NGOs began issuing statements demanding for the charges of illegal assembly, vandalism and refusing to sign police statements against Wham to be dropped. A petition in which people expressed their concerns towards Wham’s prosecution garnered 6,533 signatures.

Throughout the following years, more and more groups, both regional and international, have continued to call for the charges to be dropped, “condemning them as disproportionate and unjust.”

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The latest statement included EU parliamentarians, fifty-two Malaysian civil society organisations, the Office of the United National High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, International Commission of Jurists, ARTICLE 19, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights and Forum Asia among the list of those groups demanding for the charges to be dropped.

“The strength and unity in these voices point to how profoundly the charges against Jolovan violate our shared aspirations for a society where we have the right to assemble, associate, protest peacefully, speak and write freely, and debate difficult issues openly, including with overseas allies or Singapore residents who may be non-citizens,” noted the press release.

The 25 signatories are concerned at the rising investigations revolving the social activist and see them as restrictions on civil liberties.

They urge for the “rigorous review” of laws and regulations that heavily restrict freedom of expression in the name of public order, foreign interference and, contempt of court.

“Prosecuting Jolovan has grave implications for all Singaporeans. It is an affront to all our freedoms, and in standing up for him, we are standing up for all Singaporeans to live free of fear,” the groups added.

Charges against Wham

The most recent investigation being held against Wham is for allegedly protesting outside the State Courts without a valid permit. He posted a picture in his Instagram account of him standing outside the State Courts while holding a piece paper which said: “Drop the charges against Terry Xu and Daniel De Costa.”

He was also convicted last year for a controversial Facebook post scandalising the jury; an act found to be in contempt of court. Prosecutors are seeking a fine between S$10,000 and S$15,000 for Wham.

The sentencing date is yet to be determined.

Read the local groups’ statement below:

Photo: screenshot of the statement by local groups

Photo: screenshot of the statement by local groups

List of signatories:

  1. Arts Engage https://sites.google.com/site/artsengagesg/
  2. ArtsEquator https://artsequator.com/
  3. Beyond the Hijab https://beyondhijab.sg/
  4. CARE: Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation (Singapore

chapter) https://www.facebook.com/CAREMassey/

  1. Community Action Network (CAN) https://singaporecan.wordpress.com/
  2. Dance Nucleus http://www.dancenucleus.com/
  3. Drama Box http://dramabox.org/eng/index.html
  4. Function 8 https://fn8org.wordpress.com/
  5. HOME (Humanitarian Organization For Migration Economics) https://www.home.org.sg/
  6. IndigNation https://www.facebook.com/IndigNationSG/
  7. MARUAH https://maruah.org/
  8. Penawar https://penawarsg.com/
  9. Pink Dot SG https://pinkdot.sg/
  10. Post-Museum https://www.facebook.com/postmuseum/
  11. Sayoni https://www.sayoni.com/
  12. Singapore Anti Death Penalty Campaign https://singaporeantideathpenaltycampaign.wordpress.com/
  1. Singapore Unbound https://singaporeunbound.org/
  2. TheatreWorks Singapore https://www.facebook.com/tHEATREwORKS.Sg/
  3. The Local Rebel https://www.facebook.com/thelocalrebel/
  4. The Online Citizen https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/
  5. The Theatre Practice http://www.practice.org.sg/en/
  6. Think Centre http://www.thinkcentre.org/
  7. soft/WALL/studs https://www.facebook.com/softwallstuds/
  8. Wake Up Singapore https://www.facebook.com/wakeupSG/
  9. We Believe in Second Chances https://www.facebook.com/WeBelieveInSecondChances/
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