SINGAPORE: Academics, lawyers and media personnel are set to discuss why political hate sites should not be able to flourish without repercussions in Singapore in a forum set to take place on Saturday (8 July).

The event will be held at Palms Bistro (60 Anson Rd, #01-02, Singapore 079914) from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, and is jointly organised by renowned research institute The Asia Centre, The Independent Singapore and Wake Up Singapore.

Participants can expect deep insight on this issue from a panel of experts, including The Asia Centre’s Regional Director, Dr James Gomez, The Independent Singapore publisher Kumaran Pillai, and lawyers Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss and Wendy Low. Craig Teo will moderate the forum.

Dr Gomez is a noted political scientist who has worked with various organizations, including Amnesty International, where he was Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and has authored numerous publications to advance human rights in Asia and beyond.

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Mr Pillai has been a prominent figure in Singapore’s alternative news media industry for more than a decade. He also serves as CEO of a company dedicated to accelerating start-ups.

Ms Chong-Aruldoss is a former politician and electoral candidate with a strong track record of advocating for the rights and welfare of Singaporeans, particularly in relation to socioeconomic issues and governance.

Ms Low, the head of the Progress Singapore Party’s Women’s Wing, is a leading litigator who has volunteered with organisations like Justice Without Borders and AWARE to aid domestic workers and women.

The Asia Centre, which has a special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, will also launch its latest report on how hate sites and internet brigades in Singapore impact freedom of expression at the event.

The report examines the distressing reality faced by activists, bloggers, civil society organizations, independent media outlets and journalists, human rights lawyers, opposition political parties and politicians, who often become targets of hate sites and are subject to coordinated attacks and smear campaigns.

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Noting that critics of the one-party dominated Government are forced to operate within narrow legal boundaries, the report finds that the state is conspicuously silent over hate sites and the internet brigade that targets critics, although these critics themselves are frequently subjected to prosecution over online and offline political expression.

Asserting that providing improved internet freedoms and a safer environment for expressing criticisms will allow democratic aspirations within Singaporean society to be articulated without risking abrupt political upheavals, the report recommends that the international and local communities and authorities take five key actions to address this issue:

  1. Monitor, document, and call out cases of online hate speech in Singapore;
  2. Use UN mechanisms to engage with the Singaporean government to address political hate speech and commit itself to international standards of freedom of expression;
  3. Advocate for the amendment of laws restricting freedom of expression;
  4. Develop new technology solutions to improve the detection of online hate speech; and
  5. Work cooperatively to consider everyone’s views in developing new strategies to address online hate speech.
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Those interested in participating in the forum may register at this link.