Wednesday, December 29, 2010

More ex-detainees speak out : Political violence and the abuse of the ISA in Singapore

UPDATE : Ex-ISA detainee plans to sue Malaysian govt too
MHA ignores torture allegations; claims Fernandez was detained by Malaysia
Former ISA detainee Michael Fernandez rebuts MHA
LKY Distorts Singapore History, Academic Gets Fired

DAYS after initiating legal action against the Singapore Government for damages for alleged torture, ex-detainee Michael Fernandez now plans to sue the Malaysian authorities as well.

The writ will be filed with the Malaysian High Court by this week, and will name Malaysia's Attorney-General and the Malaysian government as the defendants, according to Mr Fernandez's lawyer, Mr M. Ravi.

Its claims will be similar to those in a writ filed against Singapore's Attorney-General on Thursday last week, namely that Mr Fernandez, 77, was subjected to 'severe physical and mental torture, humiliation and loss of income' during his detention from 1964 to 1973.

At the time of Mr Fernandez's arrest in September 1964, Singapore was part of Malaysia. Singapore left Malaysia in August 1965.

Mr Ravi said at a press conference yesterday that Malaysian law firm K. Selva Barathy and Associates would be filing the writ with the Malaysian High Court.

Mr Ravi added that complaints would also be lodged with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia and with the Malaysian representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, prominent lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

As for the Singapore writ, a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers confirmed yesterday that it has been served the writ. It now has eight days to indicate whether it will contest the suit.

Mr Fernandez was a leftist activist in the 1960s.

He was detained under the Internal Security Act on grounds that he was part of the Communist United Front, an appendage of the Communist Party of Malaya.

MHA rebuts claims of ex-ISA detainee

Ex-detainee Michael Fernandez sues Government
Former ISA detainee seeks damages against Singapore government
Michael Fernandez files writ against Government
Breaking news: Former ISA detainee plans to sue Singapore Government
Former ISA detainee wants to sue Govt for damages : Straits Times

There are three things you need to know about Singapore.

1. The only political violence that has happened in the last 45 years in Singapore are the ones inflicted on political prisoners behind the walls of the Internal Security Department.

Links :
Political detention in Singapore : Prisoner case histories
The ISA as a political tool
Life in Singapore's political prisons

Surviving long-term detention without trial
Detention of journalists and lawyers under the ISA
A detainee remembers

2. The Internal Security Act has been abused (to serve political ends) more often than it has been used appropriately (to safeguard national security).

23 years after Operation Spectrum : Ex-detainees recall mental and physical abuses

I'll forgive Lee Kuan Yew if he admits to his error and apologises to me : Lim Hock Siew

3. The people and the institution responsible for the political violence and the abuse of ISA are still in power today. Open discussions on such topics remained sensitive, and even outlawed, in Singapore.

Zahari's 17 Years - rated PG by censors, banned by Minister
Ex-detainee Vincent Cheng barred from speaking in history seminar
Here we go again - Govt bans another Martyn See's film
Operation Spectrum forum cancelled
Police retracts licence request after Minister queried
Zahari's 17 Years remains banned : MICA

Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore (Banned in Singapore) from sotong on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We'll adopt "light touch" approach for online videos : MDA

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has replied to my letter in the Straits Times forum.

Dec 16, 2010
Online videos: When MDA will use classification

WE REFER to Mr Martyn See's letter, ('Can political parties directly upload videos online?; Dec 9).

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has generally taken a 'light- touch' approach with regard to the Internet and not mandated that all Internet content providers (ICPs) send their uploaded films to MDA for classification.

This is also the case with Mr See, whose blog has several films that have not been submitted to MDA.

The MDA will, however, direct ICPs to submit films - for which there may be content concerns - to it for classification, if such films are raised to its attention. ICPs who are unsure should similarly submit their films to MDA.

In the case of Mr See's film, Lim Hock Siew, it was submitted to MDA for classification and subsequently gazetted as a prohibited film. Consequently, MDA asked Mr See to surrender all copies of the film in his possession and to take down all digital copies of the film that he had uploaded onto the Internet.

Amy Chua (Ms)
Director, Media Content & Standards,
Media Development Authority

I reckon for some, MDA's letter may raise more questions than answers. So in this regard I shall attempt to spell out the dos and donts in the form of a Q&A format.

Q: So it's now legal to produce, reproduce or import videos and upload them directly onto the internet?

A : No, technically it is still illegal. Under section 14 of the Films Act, it states that 'every film in the possession of any person shall be submitted to the Board (of Film Censors) without any alteration or excision for the purpose of censorship'.

Q : What is the definition of "film" under the law?

A : Here's the definition of "film" under the Films Act:

Film" means —
(a) any cinematograph film;
(b) any video recording, including a video recording that is designed for use wholly or principally as a game;
(c) any other material record or thing on which is recorded or stored for immediate or future retrieval any information that, by the use of any computer or electronic device, is capable of being reproduced or displayed as wholly or partly visual moving pictures,
and includes any part of a film, and any copy or part of a copy of the whole or any part of a film.

Q : Does "film" includes videos shot on my mobile phone?

A : According to the above, yes.

Q : What are the penalties if one does not submit these films to MDA?

A : Section 21 of the Films Act spells out the penalties, and also empowers the authorities to enter your home to search for unlicensed films. Here it goes :

21. —(1) Any person who —

(a) has in his possession;
(b) exhibits or distributes; or
(c) reproduces,

any film without a valid certificate, approving the exhibition of the film, shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction —

(i) in respect of an offence under paragraph (a), to a fine of not less than $100 for each such film that he had in his possession (but not to exceed in the aggregate $20,000); and

(ii) in respect of an offence under paragraph (b) or (c), to a fine of not less than $500 for each such film he had exhibited, distributed or reproduced, as the case may be (but not to exceed in the aggregate $40,000) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both.

(2) Any Censor and any Deputy or Assistant Censor and any Inspector of Films may at all reasonable times enter any place in which any film is kept or is being or is about to be exhibited and may examine the film, and if on such examination he has reasonable grounds for believing that an offence under this section has been or is about to be committed in respect of the film he may seize the film and any equipment used in the commission of the offence.

Q : But aren't there exceptions? Did MDA not create a category of films that are exempted from classification?

A : Yes, indeed there is a category of films which are exempted from classification. The list includes documentaries, children and sports shows, karaoke videos and personal videos. The full list can be found here.

However, the exemptions are not automatic. You have to apply for an exemption certificate from MDA (see here), subject to your declaration that all the exempted videos does not contain films that may violate the law, such as party political films, pornography, or any film that MDA may deem to fall outside the exemption list.

Q : Okay, now I'm confused. So am I allowed to upload videos directly online or not?

A : According to the above letter, yes, you are allowed to. MDA says they will not require you to submit your videos before you post them online.

Q : Then what's the use of retaining section 14 of the Films Act when they are not going to enforce it on every film, considering that most people watch films online these days?

A : Three reasons.

Firstly, the Films Act was passed into law in 1980, some 25 years before YouTube.

Secondly, section 14 is still applicable for all public screenings, including movies in cinemas and film festivals.

Thirdly, section 14 is a handy tool to use when the authorities wishes to act on films (or people) which they deem to be "against public interests". For example, they may selectively choose to conduct raids on a private screening of an anti-Lee Kuan Yew film, such as this and this.

Or, on occasions when the police raid a person's home for an illegal activity or possessions (such as gambling or drugs), they may also charge the owner with possession of unlicensed films.

In the above letter, MDA says they can also order websites to submit videos for classification, if they deem these videos to have "content concerns".

Q : So what are videos that may have "content concerns"?

A : MDA doesn't say, but I would posit three categories of videos that may raise their attention.

1. Videos that denigrate religion.
2. Videos that denigrate a race.
3. Videos that denigrate Lee Kuan Yew, his family and his legacy.

Q : How about political videos? Doesn't section 33 of the Films Act prohibits "party political films"?

A : Good question, and "party political films" are loosely defined as films that makes "biased references" to any political matter and persons in Singapore. There is a recent amendment to this law. The government would like to think it's a liberalisation, but on paper the law is more restrictive. See my earlier blog post on this subject here.

In the above letter, MDA mentions that there are "several films" on my blog that have not been submitted for classification. I think they meant my list of "Top 100 Political Videos (that are likely to be banned in Singapore)" . So I suppose that since these videos have not raise any "content concerns", they provide a benchmark of political films which may be deemed "safe."

Separately, in this post, blogger Alex Au has raised some content concern that two of PAP's uploaded videos may have violated section 33 of the Films Act. Don't bet on MDA to act on his concerns. So I say if the PAP can do it, so can you. But again, look out for that OB marker marked "LKY".

Q : So why do you bother to submit your films to MDA, now that the latter has said they will not enforce the law strictly on online videos?

A : Prior to this letter, I had submitted my films in good faith, and for the purpose of screening them in public at some point. Two of my films remained gazetted as prohibited films, but you can watch them here and here.


Read also :

MDA hacks away at rule of law

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Govt queried on political parties' online videos

My letter is published in the Straits Times forum today. In the spirit of Abraham Lincoln.. "The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly."

ST Forum
Dec 9, 2010
Can political parties directly upload videos online?

IN LAST Saturday's report ('The battle for eyeballs is on'), we learnt that political parties have been using the new media.

The article noted that since the ban on party political films was lifted last year, 'parties are able to produce and disseminate videos so long as they are factual and objective'.

Indeed, some opposition parties have posted politically themed videos online, with the Singapore Democratic Party chalking up 47 videos on its YouTube channel so far. My own check on the People's Action Party website reveals the ruling party has posted more than 30 videos.

But Section 14(1) of the Films Act states that 'every film in the possession of any person shall be submitted to the Board (of Film Censors) without any alteration or excision for the purpose of censorship'.

Earlier this year, I had complied with the above by submitting my video recording of a speech by political detainee Dr Lim Hock Siew to the censors. The film is now gazetted as a prohibited film because the Minister deemed it to be 'against public interests'. I was also told to remove the film from YouTube and from my blog, which I duly complied.

My other film, Zahari's 17 Years (2006), an interview with political detainee Said Zahari, has remained banned.

Given the Government's dim view of films and videos with political content, I would like to know what is the position of the relevant authorities with regard to the production and direct uploading of videos onto the Internet, particularly those of political parties.

Martyn See


Dec 4, 2010
The battle for eyeballs is on

By Tessa Wong

REMEMBER the much-discussed picture that blogger Alex Au snapped during the 2006 General Election, which showed thousands of people at a Workers' Party (WP) rally in Hougang?

It became the picture that symbolised the new media's status as a new source of political information.

With the easing of rules on political online content, political parties, especially from the opposition movement, are now banking on various platforms in cyberspace to make an impact in the coming polls.

Now, a website or a podcast is considered just the bare minimum.

While political parties acknowledge the importance of traditional vote-canvassing methods such as house visits and walkabouts, they also want to exploit the fast-growing social media to reach voters.

Singapore boasts 2.46 million Facebook users, according to statistics portal - a mind-blowing figure, considering that Facebook was made available globally only in September 2006, just after the last general election.

Many political parties have set up a presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Content on these platforms is uploaded on a regular, if not daily, basis.

Websites have been beefed up significantly. No longer do they contain only basic information about the parties; now they come with blogs, video links and interactive elements.

For example, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) and Reform Party (RP) provide updates nearly every day on their blogs, giving party news and their take on current issues. Visitors can post their comments on these blogs.

The WP's new site has a Flickr photo stream which allows visitors to view pictures of party events, and a Facebook widget which shows the party's most recently posted content.

To draw more eyeballs, the same content is often shared among multiple platforms. SDP often posts links to its blog entries on its Twitter account, its three Facebook pages, and the personal page of its party leader, Dr Chee Soon Juan.

Facebook, in particular, has proven to be a popular medium for parties. They use it to share photos of events, advertise their constituency visits and recruit volunteers.

More importantly, they use it to interact with voters. The youth wing of the People's Action Party (PAP), for example, posts links to news stories on its Facebook page to gather feedback and engage users on national issues.

These platforms are employed to elicit suggestions from voters on what they want. RP has started separate Facebook pages for its campaign drives in Hong Kah and West Coast GRCs, where it asks residents for feedback.

What's more, politicians can now talk directly to voters through new media. Among those known to do so through Facebook are RP's secretary-general Kenneth Jeyaretnam, National Solidarity Party's (NSP) secretary-general Goh Meng Seng, and PAP MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Baey Yam Keng.

In anticipation of the coming polls, some party members and volunteers have given a subtle twist to their online campaigning, such as changing their Facebook profile names to reflect their political intentions.

Some RP members have appended the term 'VotingRP' to their profile names. Mr Goh has changed his Facebook name to 'Goh Meng Seng Nspcontestampines', a reference to his plan to contest Tampines GRC in the coming elections.

A new playing field

SEVERAL key factors explain the ramp-up in new media campaigning.

One, it is seen as an affordable and effective way of reaching out to voters. Mr Goh of NSP has observed that the Internet is a low-cost medium in which politicians can get involved and achieve close engagement with voters.

SDP's assistant secretary-general, Mr John Tan, says that new media allows the party to counter 'untruths' propagated by traditional media.

This is why smaller parties which lack big budgets or manpower may want to use new media, according to Dr Marko Skoric, an assistant professor with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), who specialises in new media and social change.

'Basically, new media tactics would most benefit the underdogs,' he says.

This may explain why there is a difference between the new media approaches of the opposition and the PAP.

While the PAP has a presence on all the major new media platforms, more of its online activity appears to be driven by personal content - such as ministers or MPs posting updates on their Facebook pages - rather than by official party content.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, a member of the PAP's new media team, acknowledges that the decentralised approach is deliberate but 'makes sense'.

'We encourage them to engage with voters individually, especially since many MPs have existing voter support bases. We are not pushing to be cutting-edge, but still want to ensure voters have access to members and platforms,' he says.

The second factor is that parties are keen to woo the growing generation of wired voters, many of whom are young and want to explore political options.

To target the 18-35 age group, RP says it has put together a comprehensive online strategy, noting that its current support base has been enlisted 'almost exclusively off the back of social media'.

A third crucial factor is that the rules have changed since the last election. Last year, the ban on party political films was lifted. Parties are able to produce and disseminate videos so long as they are factual and objective.

Candidates, political parties and agents can use podcasts, vodcasts, blogs and other new media tools for campaigning in the coming elections.

Party political podcasts and vodcasts - which are episodic audio or video recordings posted online - were banned in the 2006 elections.

Taking advantage of the relaxed rules, some opposition parties have started to post politically-themed videos online. SDP has put up 47 videos on its YouTube channel so far.

Its latest video, posted this week, features its mascot Danny the Democracy Bear pursuing a man wearing what appears to be the PAP's white outfit.

A stronger online presence could also benefit political parties on Cooling-Off Day, which was introduced as part of the electoral reforms earlier this year. This falls on the eve of Polling Day.

Parties cannot officially campaign or put up any election advertising in contested wards on Cooling-Off Day and Polling Day.

But any election content that the parties has placed on the Internet before Cooling-Off Day can remain online, provided it has not been changed and that it is lawfully published in the first place.

This could well be one reason opposition parties are concentrating on Internet content: with more such content available to voters before Cooling-Off Day, they reckon, the higher will be their chances in influencing opinion.

As they see it, the biggest benefit of new media is increased accessibility to voters.

Says Mr Yaw Shin Leong, WP's organising secretary: 'There will always be people who want to know more about a party's manifesto or its stand on a political issue. It is now easier for these people to access that information using the various online platforms.'


Read also :

Political videos pudding ready for the eating

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First human rights films festival held in Singapore

Singapore's first human rights film festival, held at the Substation Arts Centre on Sunday 14 Nov, 2010, saw the screening of 7 short films from Freedom Film Fest, a premier event in the calendar of Malaysia's civil society for the last seven years, and brought to local audience this year by Singaporeans for Democracy (SFD).

Despite an earlier downpour, about 80 people packed the Guinness Theatre for 4 hours to witness documentaries about the democracy movements, police corruption, lives of transsexual sex workers, plight of the Orang Asli and the forces that sparked the notorious cow-head protest.

A common consensus heard from viewers after the screenings were that the content of the films were enlightening and evenly researched.

SFD members Seelan Palay and Martyn See rounded up the afternoon by promising that the next FFF will feature local content, but of course this is contingent upon the approval of the censors at the Media Development Authority, who had rated all but one of the seven films M18. Human rights, according to the Singapore government, are for "mature" audiences. SFD pledges to correct that misconception.

An earlier press release for the event.

Pro-democracy group to hold first human rights film festival in Singapore
A film festival dedicated to the promotion of human rights issues will be held for the first time in Singapore on November 14, 2010. Organised by local political association Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD), Freedom Film Fest Singapore will showcase seven human rights documentaries from neighbouring Malaysia.
- Hide quoted text -

Details as follows :

Freedom Film Festival Singapore : A Showcase of Human Rights Films from Malaysia.
Date : 14 Nov 2010
Time : 2pm to 6pm
Venue : Guinness Theatre, Substation Arts Centre, 45 Armenian Street
Facebook event page:
Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Sales of T-shirts and other paraphernalia at the door.

Are there any films from Singapore? Why not?

No, there are no films from Singapore. The Films Act prohibits the production and exhibition of films which display biased references towards any political issue or persons in Singapore. The penalties for such an offence is a conviction to a fine not exceeding $100,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. In 2005, local filmmaker Martyn See was investigated by the police for such an offence. Two of See's films remained banned in the country. Another filmmaker, Seelan Palay, is currently undergoing criminal investigation for exhibiting a documentary critical of Lee Kuan Yew. The legal restrictions to political film-making, compounded by a culture of fear among filmmakers and artists in Singapore towards any depiction of "sensitive" issues, meant there is currently a dearth of human rights films made by Singaporeans about Singapore.

Why films from Malaysia?

Now into its seventh year, the Freedom Film Fest was initiated by Malaysian NGO Komas Pusat as a means to educate the public on the values of human rights. The festival's circuit in recent years has included Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor and East Malaysia. Due to our shared political and cultural history with Malaysia, SFD has decided to host the Singapore leg of the festival this year. As the views raised in these films reflect ground sentiments of the Malaysian public and of its civil society, we feel that Singaporeans would be interested to get a first-hand look at the issues affecting their neighbours. The FFF 2010 in Malaysia is supported by the European Commission. None of the films shown in its seven year history has been censored or banned by the Malaysia Government.


Kopi O Khau (30 min) 2006
Dir : Andrew Sia
Language : English, Bahasa (English subtitles)
Rated M18 (Mature Content)

In 2005, after a leaked video of a naked female suspect performing ear-squats in a police station had sparked public outrage, the Malaysian Royal Police faced a barrage of allegations including physical abuse, corruption and disproportionate allocation of resouces to monitor political activities instead of combating real crime. Kopi O Khau, translated as "thick black coffee", is a colloquial term for "coffee money", or bribes. Over a hip-hop soundtrack, Andrew Sia interviews activists, politicians and a retired police officer in his quest to restore police integrity and service in Malaysia to "truly royal standards."

Sepuluh Tahun Sebelum Merdeka, or 10 Years Before Independence (30 min) 2007
Dir : Fahmi Reza
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Rated PG

October 20th, 1947 marked a historical day in the Malayan people's constitutional struggle for independence from British colonialism.
This documentary chronicles the events that culminated in the Malaya-wide 'Hartal' day of protest against the undemocratic Federation of Malaya Constitutional Proposals devised by the British Colonial Government and UMNO. Breathtaking in its scope of research and enthralling in its use of music and archival material, Fahmi Reza has aguably created the definitive film on the genesis of the democratic movement in pre-independence Malaysia and Singapore.

Pecah Lobang, or Busted (30 min) 2008
Dir : Poh Si Teng
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Rated M18 (Mature Content)

Shot in the red light district in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur, the documentary follows the life of Natasha, a Muslim Mak Nyah (transsexual), who refuses to live life as a man. Unable to secure employment because of discrimination, Natasha turns to sex work and lives in constant fear of the police and religious authorities. While interviewing a broad cross-section of society including a religious scholar, a sex-change physician, a sociologist, attorneys and a social worker, Teng Poh Si unflinchingly examines the continuing repression of transsexuals in a Malaysian society caught between rapid modernisation and a new rising tide of religious conservatism.

Kayuh (21 min) 2009
Dir : Soh Sook Hwa
Language : Bahasa, English (English subtitles)
Rated M18 (Mature Content)

This documentary is a first-hand account of the trials and tribulations of a 100-strong contingent of cyclists who had rode into Kuala Lumpur from Kedah in the north and from Johor Baru in the south. Their purpose - to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister to highlight six major concerns of marginalized groups in Malaysia. With an intention to make stops at villages and towns along the way to raise awareness among the public, the cyclists were repeatedly harassed by authorities from delivering their message. Unrelenting in its pursuit and invigorating in its spirit, Soh Sook Hwa has managed to produce an uplifting work to inspire activists all over the world.

Hak Dinafikan (30 min) 2010
Dir : Abri Yok Chopil & Shafie bin Dris
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Not rated as yet

On March 17, 2010 more than 2,000 Orang Asli marched in a rare protest against a proposed new land policy, believed to be detrimental to their people. This documentary- made by a team of Orang Asli - contains their voices; many who are speaking out for the first time. Hear what they have to say in their own words.

Pilih (30 min) 2010
Dir : Loo Que Lin
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Not rated as yet

Are Malaysian universities empowering future generations to participate in a democratic society, or are they nurturing disempowered and indoctrinated youths? Using a popular talk show format, Pilih explores the issue of campus election and exposes the reality faced by students. It gives us insight as to why Malaysian youths may be apathetic, and a micro-look as to how democracy functions in Malaysia.

Kisah Tauke Mancis Dan Minyak Tumpah (30 min) 2010
Dir : Sheridan Mahavera & Siti Nurbaiyah
Language : Bahasa (English subtitles)
Not rated as yet

This is a story of two communities and the relocation of a temple. This film takes a look behind the sensational headlines of the cow head protest to understand how the dispute came to be. It reminds us how extremism can easily be fueled when we fail to understand the context of the dispute, and manage such situations beyond the emotions.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The day Straits Times defended press freedom

Not for a hundred years has the freedom of the press in Singapore been in such danger as it is today. If the People’s Action Party is in a position to form a government, one of its first concerns will be to bring the newspapers to heel. This is the only construction that can be placed on the statements of PAP leaders, including its chairman Dr Toh Chin Chye and secretary general Lee Kuan Yew. If this conclusion is wrong, it is easy for PAP to say so. It’s leaders need only affirm their respect for freedom of the press, their respect for the right to criticize, their respect indeed for the rights of all political opposition. They must not, however, qualify their affirmation with “buts”. Like the individual, the press is either free or not free. It can comment and criticize, subject to the laws of defamation and libel, or it has no soul to call its own.

A censored press remains bad even when it produces good things. A free press remains good even when it produces bad things… a eunuch remains a mutilated being even if he possesses a fine voice. A great Socialist said that – Karl Marx. It may be that PAP’s spokesmen do not mean all they say, or that they intend to do all that they threaten. They have said some quite monstrous things, not only about the press, and are likely to go on saying them, partly no doubt because they believe threats sometimes work but also because a strong section of their following expect it of them. There is occasionally a conscious “bold bad boy” pose about PAP’s leaders, as noticeable as their undress uniform of tieless white shirt and trousers. It would be foolish and reckless, however, not to pay PAP’s leaders the compliment of believing that their threats, particularly against the press, are meant to be taken seriously.

It is ominous when is told, in an orgy of false witness by party leaders, that PAP believes in “objective reporting and the accurate dissemination of news.” This has been the classic introduction to the repression of the press everywhere the press is in chains. Dictatorships, whether of the Left or the Right, begin their suppression of the truth by confining the press to what they call “the accurate dissemination of news.” The papers then disseminate news as the party and its leaders instruct, or the press does not publish at all. It may seem fantastic that such a threat to freedom and liberty should confront Singapore in this day and age of political advance, but PAP’s leaders have made it quite clear that they do not understand the fundamental principles of the freedom of the press. It follows that they do not understand the first principles of the liberty of the people.

Opposition to PAP policy, PAP spokesmen have said, entails the risk of becoming “a political casualty.” There has been no definition yet of “a political casualty”, the extent of the injury and the manner of inflicting it has been left to the imagination. But we must assume that this phrase introduces a new PAP conception of a government’s powers, and of its right to act against those who do not share its views and refuse to keep their silence. Unmistakably PAP is hostile to a free press, to newspapers it cannot control.

- Threat to Freedom, Straits Times editorial, April 21, 1959.

A study of the subjugation of the Singapore media is a political study of Lee Kuan Yew in action. He was always wary of the media, especially of the Chinese and Malay newspapers, which, he said, “bore more careful watching than the English-language press, as they make much more emotive and powerful appeals in the mother language” and “tug at the heartstrings” of their leaders. But the unruly domestic media was not suddenly or violently reined in. That would have been politically gauche and very un-Lee. A masterplan for the suppression of the media was devised by him and time-implemented for maximum effect at critical stages.

At the advent of internal self-goverment in June 1959, Singapore had a raft of free and independent English and Chinese-language, as well as vernacular, newspapers, which, saved for the Straits Times, were owned or controlled by families or groups of individuals. But all this was to undergo a fundamental transmutation under PAP rule.

While professing his government a democracy, Lee introduced a plethora of laws systematically curbing freedom of expression under different guises. Newspapers were accused of “Malay chauvinism,” encouraging “permissiveness” or other “undesirable Western values,” “glamourizing” communism, “fanning the flames of Chinese chauvinism over language, education and culture,” or of murky conspiracies with foreign individuals, groups and governments closely accompanied by arbitrary detention of journalists, editors and owners of newspaper companies under one pretext or another, but always in the name of security and stability.

As a result, the independent Chinese-language Nanyang Siang Pau lost not only its owners but also its unique identity, while the two English-language newspapers – the politically correct Eastern Sun, whose bankers were the premier communist Bank of China, and the young and brash Singapore Herald, whose bankers, the Chase Manhatten Bank, were then the second-largest capitalist bank in the world – met their premature demise at the hands of the prime minister, whose hitherto enviable reputation with the international media lay shattered among the ruins of those newsapers.

In January 1973, as a first major step towards the subjugation of the print media, the Printing Presses Act was repealed and reenacted with profound amendments as the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA) 1974, ostensibly to “safeguard public interest by ensuring that undesirable foreign elements do not gain control of our newspapers and use them against the welfare of our society.”

The law smoothed the way for management control of the newspaper companies by persons approved or nominated by the PAP government. Warned the Straits Times editor-in-chief [Peter Lim], who was later eased out of his powerful position: “Whatever the Singapore journalist’s dreams, he cannot forget … the reality that … the [PAP] government could put anyone or remove him from any position in a newspaper company.”

- The Media Enthralled, Francis Seow, 1998

You can find the actual article here.

You can also read a related article here.

Read also :

Singapore's war on pop culture

Singapore drive on 'yellow culture' goes on

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Political fear and apathy? What fear? What apathy?

First posted on The Online Citizen.

Political filmmaker Martyn See reviews that historical 2006 televised debate between MM Lee Kuan Yew and the post 65′ers.

During the run-up to the 2006 General Elections, Mediacorp’s Channel News Asia aired a 50 minute-long programme entitled “Why My Vote Matters.” It featured a dialogue session between Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and a selected panel of post 65-ers.

Televised debates with PAP leaders are extremely rare. Older Singaporeans would have to cast their minds back to the mid-1980s when Select Commitee hearings such as the amendments to the Legal Professions Act were beamed into their living rooms. It had reportedly featured the then Law Society President Francis Seow jousting with then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, with cameo appearances by young lawyers Teo Soh Sung and Tang Fong Har. Two years after the programme was aired, Teo and Tang were detained under the ISA for an alleged “Marxist conspiracy” to subvert the Government. Seow was also arrested a year later.

Throughout the latter half of the 1980s to the mid 1990s, televised political debates did make recurring appearances, most notably with the live Parliamentary proceedings and other Select Commitee enquiries, including a rare face-off on the cost of living, which featured SDP’s Chee Soon Juan versus PAP’s George Yeo. And there was a particular memorable hearing on the Elected Presidency Bill, when a law lecturer named Walter Woon held his own against a panel of ministerial heavyweights including the then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong. By the mid-1990s, ‘Live in Parliament’ and other Select Commitee hearings were eased off the air, sporadically appearing only as heavily-edited spots during the nightly news broadcasts.

It is in this context that the airing of this 2006 debate makes for such a rare milestone event in Singapore’s television history.

On hindsight, there are questions one would ask of the station’s executive producers and the Prime Minister’s Office. Why did they see the need to conduct such a televised dialogue? Were they hoping to win the young voters over by allowing the octogenarian to remind them of PAP’s accomplishments? Were they hoping that the young post-65ers’ would be so in awe of the MM that they would capitulate? And why entitle the show “Why My Vote Matters” when half the population of this country have not and will probably not be able to vote, given the number of uncontested seats since the 1980s? Add to that, it was Lee Hsien Loong’s first General Elections as the Prime Minister, so why didn’t he take the hot seat instead of his father?

Presumptions and motives aside, this televised debate makes for compelling viewing, and some startling revelations, chief of which was how the post 65-ers went straight for the jugular and tabled questions on the uneven playing field, particularly of the GRC system, and on occasions even interrupted the MM. Older Singaporeans conditioned to deference towards Lee would have been appalled at such disrespect shown to the ‘founding father’.

One young post-65er who stood out was journalist Ken Kwek of the Straits Times’ political desk. Kwek had pinned Lee to the ropes on a survey he had done about political fear. But in a reversal of role, Lee shot back, probing Kwek to disclose the names of his sources.

Having watched this again on Google video, I found several illuminating moments. I leave marked timecodes of them but I’ll leave it to you to make your own conclusions.

(Ken Kwek has since left the Straits Times. He is currently a playwright and had written the screeplay to the local film The Blue Mansion.)

1:47 : On why there are many PAP MP’s who have never contested.
2:06 : On why “there isn’t much of a fight.”
3:55 : On why the need for GRCs. It’s for racial minority representation.
4:33 : When pointed out by Ken Kwek that PAP’s minority candidates had indeed won in single seats prior to implementation of GRC system, Lee replied , “That was with the PAP in complete control. That generation voted for the PAP.” There was a pause. Lee seemed unsure of how to continue. But was interrupted by another question. This is probably the biggest Freudian slip by Lee that the GRC system was implemented for a different reason other than for minority represenatation.
4.55 : Voting are “basic, visceral, emotional biases.”
8:47 : Potong Pasir and Hougang “have to wait at the end of the queue.”
8:57 : Lee asks, “Does any government help the opposition to displace itself?”
10:05 : On eliminating the opposition.
11.10 : On fear of voting against the PAP.
12:04 : No level playing field anywhere.
12:42 : We can “guess” but we don’t know who voted against us.
13:07 : The grilling of Ken Kwek begins here. You name the voters who are afraid.
13:26 : I started as a cross-examiner. You name them.
13:45 : Kwek : Why should I name them?
13:55 : More cross-examination by Lee on Kwek.
15:10 : We have said categorically, “The vote is secret.”
16:11 : “I allowed my grandchildren to speak back to me but from time to time..I put them down.”
17:45 : I built up my base from one single seat in 1959.
18:56 : We want a fair media.
19:10 : Where is the opposition’s “substance?”
22:14: GRCs does the opposition good.
23:22 : I’ve never said that the opposition is unnecessary.
24:52 : Is the PAP insecure about losing?
25:22 : On why the government disallows political podcasts and blogging.
27:18 : Emotional attachment to nation via right to vote is an “unfounded thesis.”
27:15 : “The fact that we are not challenged is a strong mandate.”
32:44 : There is no political apathy.
33:35 : The definition of politics equals jobs, home, medicine, education, future.
34:40 : In the 50s and 60s, Singapore was “in a state of agitation everyday.”
36:50 : Once the PAP goes soft, it will be displaced.
36:39 : Our candidates have competence, integrity.
38:10 : There is a databank here (points to his head).
38:40 : Would you like me to retire from politics?
39:56 : Do you not think my son has a mind of his own?
41:00 : I’ll be sad if your generation wants me to retire.
44:04 : “If I’m arrogant, would I be talking to you?”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The art of violent metaphors - by Lee Kuan Yew

"Put it this way. As long as Jeyaretnam [Workers' Party leader] stands for what he stands for -- a thoroughly destructive force -- we will knock him. There are two ways of playing this. One, a you attack the policies; two, you attack the system. Jeyaretnam was attacking the system, he brought the Chief Justice into it. If I want to fix you, do I need the Chief Justice to fix you? Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac. That's the way I had to survive in the past. That's the way the communists tackled me. He brought the Chief Justice into the political arena."
- SM Lee Kuan Yew, The Man & His Ideas, 1997

"Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister...She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac...Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society."
- SM Lee Kuan Yew, The Man and His Ideas, 1997

In a speech at the Global Brand Forum on Monday, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said: "Pilots believe they are special, they got huge egos, I'm told. We are telling both management and unions - you play this game, there are going to be broken heads - let's stop it." - CNA, 3 Dec 2003

"If I have to shoot 200,000 students to save China from another 100 years of disorder, so be it."
- Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew evoking the ghost of Deng Xiaoping whilst endorsing the Tiananmen Square massacre, Straits Times, Aug 17, 2004

"Mine is a very matter-of-fact approach to the problem. If you can select a population and they're educated and they're properly brought up, then you don't have to use too much of the stick because they would already have been trained. It's like with dogs. You train it in a proper way from small. It will know that it's got to leave, go outside to pee and to defecate. No, we are not that kind of society. We had to train adult dogs who even today deliberately urinate in the lifts."
- Lee Kuan Yew on Singapore society, The Man & His Ideas, 1997


Singaporean arrested after Facebook attack on govt

(AFP) – 4 days ago

SINGAPORE — A Singaporean man who attacked the ruling party on Facebook and urge people to "burn" a cabinet minister has been arrested on charges of inciting violence, police said Wednesday.

In a statement, police said they had arrested a "man in his late 20s" on Tuesday "in connection with investigations into offences related to incitement of violence".

The statement did not name the man or give details of the offence, but said that he was released on bail pending further investigation.

Local media identified him as Abdul Malik Ghazali, 27, who posted a series of comments on the social networking site critical of how Singapore is hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG).

The August 14-26 event, held for competitors aged from 14 to 18, has generated limited public interest, with many events blighted by empty seats and the host country's athletes faring badly.

Vivian Balakrishnan, the minister for community development, youth and sports, has come under particular fire from online critics over the games.

Abdul Malik's postings on his own Facebook page and on a separate group account called "I hate the Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee" are also critical of Singapore's ruling People's Action Party (PAP).

Abdul Malik, who works for a company specialising in wood and flooring, said on his Facebook page that he was arrested "due to my involvement in anti-YOG and anti-PAP Facebook pages".

One of his postings highlighted recent floods in Singapore, the escape of detained terror suspect Mas Selamat Kastari, the amount of money spent to host the games and reports of the poor standard of food served for games volunteers.

He said it was time to "burn" the sports minister and the PAP.

"Rally together and vote them out!!!" he wrote.

Abdul Malik said in comments published Wednesday by The New Paper that "the comment is a metaphor".

"I did not intend for it to be taken literally. I did not mean for someone to actually burn," he said.

In another posting, Abdul Malik referred to a version of the communist anthem The Internationale on YouTube and wrote: "This song is a call to rise against tyranny and oppression... Very suited to what is happening now in Singapore."

Prosperous Singapore -- which is spending close to 300 million US dollars to host the games, more than three times original projections -- follows a hardline policy on political dissent.

Public protests are banned without a police permit and anti-government critics in the political opposition and media have been successfully sued for defamation by top officials.

Some in cyberspace rallied to Abdul Malik's defence.

One Facebook poster calling himself "Kok Meng" wrote "seems like even metaphors are forbidden these days".

"Police should get a grip and let loose. We are a democracy."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Videos : Pleading for death row prisoners at the Istana

Yong Vui Kong's Family Plead for his Life

Yong Vui Kong's Family Plead for his Life from Lianain Films on Vimeo.

2005 : Appeal to President outside Istana to spare the life of Shanmugam Murugesu

Appeal to President outside Istana to spare the life of Shanmugam Murugesu from Jacob George on Vimeo.

2005 : Public Forum on Death Penalty in Singapore and Appeal outside Istana for Shanmugam Murugesu

Public Forum on Death Penalty and Campaign for Shanmugam Murugesu from Jacob George on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Alan Shadrake held in Singapore - Aggregated News (updated 30 Nov)

How and where to buy the book? (Note : The book is not banned in Singapore, merely restricted in circulation)

Book Reviews
Book Review : Once A Jolly Hangman - Ben Bland
Prisoners are fit to drop in Singapore - Asia Times Online
Death row in Singapore - we need answers, not silencing
New book puts death penalty on trial - Alex Au
Alan Shadrake’s crime? - TOC
Review : Once A Jolly Hangman
Foreign Office Minister "dismayed" as writer is jailed for expressing his views in Singapore

19 Nov 2010
Shadrake to appeal
British author Alan Shadrake to appeal sentence
Alan Shadrake to appeal Singapore contempt conviction
Shadrake to appeal
Convicted British author to appeal jail sentence and fine
British author to appeal jail term
Author 'To Appeal Singapore Jail Sentence'

16 Nov 2010
Singapore jails author 6 weeks for contempt
UK author jailed in Singapore over execution book
British author Alan Shadrake sentenced to 6 weeks jail in Singapore for his book
SINGAPORE: British author Alan Shadrake imprisoned
UK Author Alan Shadrake jailed in Singapore
British author jailed for contempt by Singapore court
Alan Shadrake given six week sentence
Singapore Jails British Author Alan Shadrake for Six Weeks
Singapore sentences UK author to jail
British author Alan Shadrake jailed in Singapore
British author sentenced in Singapore for book on death penalty
British author, 76, jailed in Singapore for six weeks over book on the death penalty
Singapore Deals Sharp Blow to Freedom of Expression by Sentencing British Author, Says Amnesty International
CPJ condemns jail sentence against writer critical of death penalty
Joint statement by SADPC and Think Centre on the Alan Shadrake's case

8 Nov 2010
Thirty free speech groups sign petition for Alan Shadrake

5 Nov 2010

Singapore suppresses dissident

4 Nov 2010

You can cage the singer
Why judgement on Shadrake is significant

3 Nov 2010

News :
British Author Guilty of Contempt in Singapore - Channel 4 News
Conviction of British author is yet another assault on freedom of expression
British author faces jail for criticising Singapore's judiciary
Legal history made in Shadrake trial verdict
Singapore: Alan Shadrake found guilty
U.K. Author Faces Singapore Jail Time
I finally get to say it: Has the world gone mad?
British author guilty of insulting Singapore judiciary
Singapore court holds British writer guilty of contempt
British author faces prison sentence in Singapore
UK author Shadrake convicted of contempt in Singapore - BBC

British journalist Shadrake convicted in Singapore
Singapore court finds UK journalist guilty of contempt for criticising judiciary
Singapore convicts death penalty author
S’pore: Petition appeals for release of British journalist
Amnesty International Raised Concern that Singapore Conviction of Author Smothers Freedom of Expression
Shadrake found guilty of contempt of court
British author guilty of contempt
British author faces jail in Singapore for deriding 'corrupt' justice system in a book

Singapore court finds UK author Shadrake guilty of contempt

Commentary :

Conviction casts doubt on Yale tie-up

29 Oct 2010

An Open Letter from Alan Shadrake to the Singapore Government

22 Oct 2010

Petition appeals for acquittal of British journalist Alan Shadrake

Commentary :
Has the issue of jurisdiction been addressed by the Court?

21 Oct 2010

News :
No reason to depart from Inherent Tendency Test – DPP

Commentary :
How to propel a book to bestseller status

20 Oct 2010

News :
Author of 'defamatory' book must be held to higher standard, says AGC

Lawyer offers to quit

British author Shadrake's comments "fair criticisms", say his lawyers
Singapore wraps up case against British author

19 Oct 2010

News :
Singapore trial for British contempt case journalist

British author says Singapore book 'fair criticism' of court
UK author Shadrake made baseless attacks on S'pore judiciary: lawyer
DPP’s statement “a serious imputation on my character” – M Ravi

Author admits factual error

Baseless attack on judiciary

First day of Shadrake hearing
Shadrake’s book a “blatant, contemptuous attack against the judiciary’ – DPP
“We shouldn’t be so hypersensitive in reacting” – M Ravi
“This proceeding itself scandalises the judiciary” – M Ravi

Commentary :
Singapore Justice in the Dock Indeed

23 Aug 2010

News :
British critic unlikely to find leniency in Singapore court

17 Aug 2010

News :
Author denies intention to insult Singapore - AFP
Shadrake denies intention to scandalise Singapore judiciary

15 Aug 2010

Commentary :
Buying a book “not banned” in Singapore

14 Aug 2010

News :
Cabinet has power to pardon
Law Minister's comments on convicted drug trafficker misrepresented

13 Aug 2010

News :
Shadrake ‘recovering well’ after angioplasy

Commentary :
Singapore: spare the Occidental, hang the Oriental.

11 Aug 2010

News :
Activists cry murder over Singapore hanging - Free Malaysia
M'sians want S'pore to take action against "wrongful" execution
“I want my son’s name back” - TOC
Father seeks redress for son hanged in Singapore - TOC video
MEMORANDUM OF PROTEST Wrongful execution of M’sian Vignes Mourthi and malicious prosecution of Alan Shadrake - Lawyers For Liberty

Commentaries :
To try or not: Singapore agonises
The death penalty in Singapore
Doughnut reporting

7 Aug 2010

Commentary :
Alan Shadrake Video Interview

4 Aug 2010

Commentary :
Shadrake case highlights Singapore censorship battle - BBC
What Moral Authority, Wong Kan Seng?
Wong Is Wrong Again
The groundbreaking action against 'Hangman' author Alan Shadrake

3 Aug 2010

News :
S'pore must defend integrity of institutions of justice & law enforcement: DPM Wong

2 Aug 2010

News :
News 5 Tonight - Alan Shadrake
Petition against death penalty - Straits Times

Commentaries :

British Author's Uphill Battle in a Singapore Court

1 Aug 2010

News :
Local & Foreign Activists fights againt Death Penalty together at Speaker's Corner

30 July 2010

News :
Singapore's reputation on the line as British author fights on - James Gomez/The Guardian
UK author Shadrake's Singapore contempt trial adjourned - BBC
U.K. Author Says He Won't Apologize for Book on Singapore's Death Penalty - Bloomberg
UK death penalty book author defiant - AFP
Shadrake won't say he's sorry - Today
UK author vows to fight Singapore contempt charge - AP/WSJ

Commentaries :
Shadrake’s day in court, part 1

28 July 2010

News :
Singapore: Legal Charges Threat to Freedom of Expression - Human Rights Watch

26 July 2010

Commentaries :
Shooting the messenger in Singapore

23 July 2010
News :
Open letter to the authorities: Judicial harassment of journalist is an affront to freedom of expression - FIDH
SHADRAKE: I’d do it all again - British Weekly
Released on bail, British journalist accused of contempt of court - Aliran

Commentaries :
the biggest scandal this week is the arrest of Alan Shadrake

22 July 2010

Commentaries :
Shadrake faces heavy silencing hand, part 2
Oh What A Tangled Web
Catch The Lie Here

21 July 2010

News :
British author arrested for book on death penalty; film on political prisoners banned - IFEX
Court proceedings initiated against author - Today
'Hangman' author released on bail - My Paper

Commentaries :
Drugs, Death, Censorship, and Singapore

20 July 2010

News :
British death penalty author freed on bail in Singapore - BBC
British writer freed from Singapore jail - Guardian
British author Alan Shadrake freed from Singapore prison - Telegraph
Consular assistance for British author - Today
British author Alan Shadrake out on police bail - CNA
British author freed on bail - Straits Times
Singapore arrests author who criticised death penalty - The Independent
Singapore Arrests British Writer For Defamation - AP/CBS News
British author runs foul of censors in Singapore - ABC Radio
Alan Shadrake makes bail in S'pore - British Weekly/YourSDP
Singapore Releases UK Author In Defamation Case - AP/CBS News
Released on bail, British journalist accused of contempt of court - Reporters sans Frontieres

Commentaries :
Shadrake faces heavy silencing hand

19 July 2010

News :
British author of death penalty book held in Singapore - BBC
British author Alan Shadrake arrested in Singapore over death penalty book - Telegraph
Singapore arrests 'Hangman' author - Al Jazeera
Lawyer seeks access to British author arrested in Singapore - AFP
UK reporter held in Singapore - News24
Alan Shadrake – the author of ‘Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock’ arrested - Today24News
Singapore arrests British writer for defamation - AP/Bloomberg
Singapore must release British author of death penalty book - Amnesty International
Singapore: Amnesty calls for release of British author of death penalty book - Amnesty International UK
Human rights group wants author released - UPI
Lawyer seeks access to British author arrested in Singapore - AFP
British author arrested, charged with defamation over book on death penalty - IFEX

Commentaries :
Jolly Hangman author Alan Shadrake didn't expect legal action
Exposing the truth scares the PAP

18 July 2010

News :
Singapore arrests British author of death penalty book - Guardian
Singapore arrests UK author on defamation charge - Reuters
British National Alan Shadrake Arrested - Singapore Police Press Release
Author critical of Singapore is arrested - AFP/Bangkok Post
Singapore arrests author after release of book criticising use of death penalty - AFP/Australian
Breaking news: Author of death penalty book Alan Shadrake arrested - YourSDP
Photos of Book Launch held in Singapore - Jacob George
British author arrested in Singapore over death penalty book - Ben Bland

Commentaries :
Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore arrests Alan Shadrake

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Martyn See complies with MDA's order but video goes viral

Yesterday, I was ordered by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to "to take down all digital copies of the film that you have uploaded onto youtube and your blogsite".

Therefore, as of now, the banned video "Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore", or "Dr Lim Hock Siew" as stated in my submission to the censors, has been deleted from youtube, and you will not be able to view it here.

Yesterday, at the time of the first press release announcing the ban, the viewership registered at 44,165. At 2359 hours 12 July 2010, it had increased to 49,903

I have received notices that the film has been downloaded by anonymous netizens who have already or are in the process of uploading it to various video sites such as this. Although I remind all that it is criminal offence (to the tune of a maximum $10,000 fine or two years imprisonment) to possess or distribute the film, I have no wish, nor the means, to hinder the viral spread of the video.

As such, I hereby declare that the film is no longer in my possession, and its ownership will from now on be given to all citizens of the Republic of Singapore.

Meanwhile, read what other bloggers and news sites have to say :

Shooting the messenger in Singapore
Dr Lim Hock Siew - Dr Wong Wee Nam
Compulsive history
Lawrence show me Banned-in-Singapore video!
Banning Content Does Not Protect Us - Audrey Wong
The Internet is the voice of the people

Personal protest against the ban of the video recording of Dr Lim Hock Siew's speech

There Are Experts, And There Are Experts

2 Lefts, only 1 Right
MDA please clarify how ban served public interest
The public is interested
Are Ex-ISD detainees in the limelight to radicalise us? Or wake us up from our slumber?
Revisiting the Streisand Effect
Transcript of Dr Lim Hock Siew's speech on the ISA.
Why censorship is evil
Thank you PAP for promoting Dr Lim Hock Siew!
Dr Lim Hock Siew video is now banned
Why ban Lim Hock Siew's footage?
Singapore Outlaws The Film Dr Lim Hock Siew
Dr Lim Hock Siew banned by Censors
A month of barring and banning - Joshua Chiang
Singapore government bans Martyn See’s film ‘Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore’
BREAKING NEWS: MDA bans See’s film on ISA detainee

Singapore forces removal of dissident YouTube video

AFP - A Singaporean filmmaker on Wednesday complied with a government order to remove a political film from video sharing site YouTube but said others were defiantly spreading it on the web.

Martyn See said he was ordered by the information ministry to to take down all digital copies of the film from YouTube and his blogsite by July 14 or face up to two years in jail and a fine of 10,000 Singapore dollars (7,100 US).

The banned video titled "Ex-political prisoner speaks out in Singapore" is about a rare public talk in 2009 by Lim Hock Siew, a leftist medical doctor and activist held from 1963 to 1982 during then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's rule.

"I have received notices that the film has been downloaded by anonymous netizens who have already, or are in the process of, uploading it to various video sites such as (Vimeo)," See told AFP in an email.

"Although I remind all that it is criminal offence... to possess or distribute the film, I have no wish, nor the means, to hinder the viral spread of the video," said See, who has had previous brushes with the authorities.

"As such, I hereby declare that the film is no longer in my possession, and its ownership will from now on be given to all citizens of the Republic of Singapore," added See, a 41-year-old professional video editor.

In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Information, Communication and the Arts said the 22-minute film was submitted to government censors for classification but it was banned "as it is against the public interest."

"The film gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Dr Lim?s arrests and detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963.

"The Singapore government will not allow individuals who have posed a security threat to Singapore?s interests in the past, to use media platforms such as films to make baseless accusations against the authorities, give a false portrayal of their previous activities in order to exculpate their guilt, and undermine public confidence in the government in the process."

In his memoirs, Lee Kuan Yew -- now an adviser to his son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong -- wrote that the 1963 police raids that landed Lim in detention were part of a crackdown on communists.