Singapore: End Efforts to Silence Opposition

18Oct08

Human Rights Watch criticizes the recent defamation damages awarded to the Lees:

“Using defamation laws to silence peaceful political speech makes a mockery of Singapore’s claim to be a model democracy,” said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Opposition criticism of the government is an essential ingredient of a democratic political system.”

Human Rights Watch urged the Singaporean government to lift legal restrictions on freedom of expression to bring the country in line with international law.

The Straits Times published the usual response parroting the party line, even claiming that “The Chees had every opportunity to justify and prove their allegations in court, but totally failed to do so” (really?), but unusually quoted large parts of HRW’s criticism without comment:

‘Opposition criticism of the government is an essential ingredient of a democratic political system.’

Ms Pearson said: ‘The history of defamation in Singapore shows a pattern of making people pay dearly for exercising the basic right of peaceful expression.’

‘Singapore has nothing to fear from a vocal opposition and its people have everything to gain.’



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