Local human rights NGO Maruah is organising a forum to discuss the impact of the Public Order Act in Singapore. The forum will take place on Sunday (20 Dec) at 2.30pm, through online video conferencing platform Google Meet.

The Public Order Act was thrust into the spotlight after local activist Jolovan Wham was charged in court for illegal assembly last month after he held a piece of cardboard featuring a smiley face in front of a police station.

On 28 March, Mr Wham decided to take a picture of himself holding a smiley face in front of a police post at Toa Payoh Central after hearing that two youths who had taken photos of themselves posing with placards demanding climate change at the same spot had been called up for investigations.

In May, Mr Wham shared on social media that he had been ordered to report to Tanglin police for allegedly violating the Public Order Act. In November, the 40-year-old was charged in court with taking part in a public assembly without a permit.

Mr Wham faces a fine of up to S$5,000 if he is found guilty, according to charge sheets. His one-man protest drew international scrutiny over Singapore’s strict laws, with publications like The New York Times and the BBC examining the Public Order Act.

Alluding to the case against Mr Wham, Maruah claimed that the Public Order Act is being misused on political and social discourse in Singapore.

Unveiling its latest forum, entitled ‘The Public Order Act and its disempowering effect on Singapore’, Maruah said that the discussion will cover the legal frameworks of the Public Order Act and the Public Order and Safety (Special Powers) Act.

Maruah also seeks to address the limitations faced by Singaporeans and assess the media’s role and the need for a fairer balance between public order and the freedom of expression.

The panelists of the virtual event are Maruah president Ngiam Shih Tung, lawyer Priscilla Chia and writer and socio-political commentator Howard Lee. Ms Chia is expected to discuss the legal frameworks while Mr Lee is set to shed light on the media’s role as it pertains to this issue.

Register for the event here.

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