Statement by civil society and general public over the treatment of alleged vandals
May 16, 2014, 3:45 am
Filed under: Announcements, Singapore

15 May 2014

Alleged vandals should be treated in accordance with UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

We, the undersigned, wish to raise our concern regarding the treatment rendered by members of the broadcast and print media and the District Court towards the five teenagers (aged 17) arrested on 10 May 2014 for their alleged involvement in a case of vandalism in Toa Payoh on 7 May 2014. As a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Singapore is obligated to fulfil the commitments set in the CRC which are all aimed at achieving its noble purpose of protecting the rights and welfare of all children.

According to Article 16 of the CRC, “No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation”.

Under Article 40(1), parties to the Convention, “recognize the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child’s respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child’s age and the desirability of promoting the child’s reintegration and the child’s assuming a constructive role in society”.

Article 40(2)(b)(vii) further states that privacy of the child must be guaranteed and respected at all stages of the proceedings.

Although Article 1 of the CRC defines a child as an individual who is below the age of 18, Singapore’s Children and Young Persons Act (CYPA) only provides protections for individuals below the age of 16.

Therefore, the actions of the broadcast and print media in revealing the identities of the five accused aged 17, run counter to the spirit and intent of the CRC, particularly Articles 16, 40(1), and 40(2)(vii).

In addition, a request made by one of the teenagers to inform his parents about his arrest was denied by the judge at the first mention of his case in court. This denial of assistance by the district judge is a violation of Article 16 of the CRC; however, since the CYPA does not cover individuals 16 years and above, the judge had acted within the boundaries of our laws.

We, the undersigned, believe that Singapore’s laws, and especially the CYPA in the area of children’s rights, should be aligned with the provisions of the CRC. This is to ensure that individuals below the age of 18 are duly protected in accordance with international human rights norms.

Further, we note that the five accused teenagers have yet to be proven guilty in a court of law. As such, we urge the Attorney General to look into possible violations of the CRC by members of Singapore’s print and broadcast media as well as provide adequate protection for these teenagers, adhering fully to the spirit of the CRC.

We also urge the Attorney General and the Singapore Police Force to grant the accused five immediate communications with their families as well as access to immediate and adequate legal representation.

Yours sincerely,

Amy Lauschke Jevon Ng Rachel Chung
Adrian Gopal Jocelyn Yeo Rachel Zeng
Andrew Loh Joe Tan Raymond Chan
Ariffin Sha Jolene Tan Robert Yong
Betty Tan Jolovan Wham Roger Yap
Braema Mathi Joshua Chiang Roy Ngerng Yi Ling
Bryan Choong Jufri Salim Sarah Sidek
Chan Wai Han Kirsten Han Shelley Thio
Chng Nai Rui Koh Eng Thiem, Ronald Sidek Mallek
Chng Suan Tze Kokila Annamalai Siew Kum Hong
Chong Kai Xiong Kumaran Pillai Sophie Tan
Chong Wai Fung Kwan Jin-Ee Stephanie Chok
Clarence Lenon Dorai KZ Arifa Steve Chia
Constance Singham Law Kah Hock Suziana Mohd
Damien Chng Lenney Leong Sylvia Tan
Dana Lam Leow Yong Fatt [Liao Yangfa] Tan Elice
Dr. Paul Ananth Tambyah Lim Han Thon Tan Kin Lian
Dr. Vincent Wijeysingha Lim Jialiang Tan Simin
Dr. Wong Wee Nam Lim Kay Siu Tan Tee Seng
Eddie Ng Low Yit Leng Teo Soh Lung
Emily Boo Lujahhan Mohd Islam Terry Xu
Evan Ong Eng Ann Lukas Godfrey Timothy Soh
Fong Hoe Fang Lynn Lee Vanessa Ho
Francis Law Mahaboob Baatsha Veronica Denise Goh
Frederique Soh Mansura Sajahan Vincent Cheng
Han Hui Hui Martin Ferrao Vincent Law
Ho Choon Hiong Melissa Tsang Vivian Wang
Howard Lee Miak Siew Wong Chee Meng
Immae Tham Ng E-Jay Wong Souk Yee
Isrizal Mohamed Isa Ng Joo Hock Woon Tien Wei
Jacob George Nicholas Harriman Xu Zhi Long
Jacqueline Tan Noor Effendy Ibrahim Yap Ching Wi
Jaslyn Go Nurul Huda Yeo Yeu Yong
Jean Chong Pak Geok Choo Zeng Ziting
Jennifer Teo Patrick Ong

And the following organisations:

Function 8
MARUAH
Restore
Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign
Think Centre
We Believe in Second Chances

Erratum: An amendment has been made to the statement. The definition of the child under the Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC) is anyone below the age of 18 years and not 18 years and below, as previously stated. The definition of a young person is anyone below the age of 16, and not 16 years and below.

 



Government Statement on Dinesh Raman Reprehensible
September 15, 2013, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Announcements, Singapore

(The following is a statement released by members of civil society in response to the Ministry of Home Affair’s statement regarding Dinesh Raman, dated 13 September 2013)

MEDIA RELEASE, 15 September 2013

We deplore the statement issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in respect of the late Mr Dinesh Raman s/o Chinniah, entitled Statement regarding the case of Dinesh Raman s/o Chinniah, published on the ministry’s website on 13 September 2013.

There is a claim before the courts. The family desires to learn the facts of their son and brother’s death while in the custody of the Singapore Prison Service.  The details of the MHA press release pertaining to Mr Dinesh’s past, ostensibly in order to determine the quantum of compensation, have instead rehearsed  his past misdeeds in order to conduct a character assassination ahead of the court hearing. It is designed to swing public opinion from sympathy for the family. Moreover, these matters are irrelevant to the case before the court.

They were then repeated in the mainstream media without regard for the sensibilities of the family or basic norms of courtesy. We urge the media to show more sensitivity to the family’s situation.

The action of the ministry in publishing its press release is deeply wrong. It has done so in a way that is clearly intended to destroy Mr Dinesh’s posthumous reputation. We have no doubt that by doing so it has added to the deep grief of the family, already suffering the profound pain of their only son’s loss. It is entirely unseemly for the Ministry of Home Affairs to have done so.

As fellow citizens, we demand that the Minister for Home Affairs apologise to the family.

 

Leslie Chew

Priscilla Chia

Joshua Chiang

Stephanie Chok

Damien Chng

Jean Chong

Chong Kaixiong

Neth Chong

Choo Zhengxi

Fadli Bin Fawzi

Han Huihui

Gilbert Goh

Ho Choon Hiong

Kirsten Han

Russell Heng

Adrian Heok

Vanessa Ho

Dan Koh               

Dana Lam

Vincent Law

Basil Lee

Lynn Lee

Corinna Lim

Lim Jialiang

Andrew Loh

Braema Mathi

Ng Yi-Sheng

Roy Ngerng

Ong Yanchun

Pak Geok Choo

Vivian Pan

Alfian Sa’at

Martyn See

Siew Kum Hong

Miak Siew

Isrizal Mohamed Isa

Shafiie Syhami

Constance Singam

Kenneth Tan

Roy Tan

Shawn Tan

Shelley Thio

Melissa Tsang

Vidula Verma

Jolovan Wham

Vincent Wijeysingha

Wong U-Wen

Terry Xu

Yap Ching Wi

Rachel Zeng



#FreeMyInternet – Media statement issued at the end of the protest

5385_618093534882266_605125707_n#FreeMyInternet is encouraged by the success of our first campaign against the new MDA Licensing Regime, which many media commentators see as the turning point in Singapore’s media regulatory landscape in Singapore.

More than 4,000 signed our online petition (and still counting), more than 150 blogs participated in our online blackout, and an estimated total of 2500 participated this afternoon in Singapore’s largest blogger-led protest.

But don’t take just our word for it. When Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin went on national television to explain the Licensing Regime, all we saw was a steady climb of those who think the new regulation would limit online news content, from 50% to a landslide 73.9%.

These are all clear signs that Singaporeans from all walks of life, be they writers or readers of online content, do not believe the explanations offered by the government, are against the MDA Licensing Regime, and are demanding for it to be withdrawn.

The success of the campaign is no mean feat. #FreeMyInternet came together at a few days’ notice, and the three-prong campaign was organised within a week and a half. Given the spontaneous and leaderless nature of the #FreeMyInternet movement, this is a remarkable achievement.

Moving ahead, the #FreeMyInternet movement will continue to call for the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime.

In addition, there is much more public awareness that needs to be done. Because of the manner in which the Licensing Regime was slipped into legislation, there has been very little opportunity to educate the public on why the Licensing Regime is so dangerous.

In the weeks to come, we will roll out material and programmes to educate members of the public and Members of Parliament about why the Licensing Regime needs to be withdrawn.

We do not rule out a dialogue with the government, but this dialogue needs to be a discussion on how the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime will take place, and should be a dialogue about how de-regulating the media environment can best be done to benefit Singaporeans.

The trust that was broken by the hasty introduction of the Licensing Regime can only be restored by the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime. A government that doesn’t trust its people is a government that will lose the trust of its people. We hope our government will keep their faith with all Singaporeans.



Singapore: Licensing Regime Chills News Climate

Human-Right-Watch-LogoCity-state Undercuts Status as Financial Center by Expanding Media Censorship to Web

(New York, June 7, 2013) – The Singaporean government should withdraw an onerous new licensing requirement for online news sites, Human Rights Watch said today. The new rules will further discourage independent commentary and reporting on the Internet in Singapore.

On May 28, 2013, the Media Development Authority, which is controlled by the Ministry of Communications and Information and is responsible for regulation of Singapore’s media and publishing industry, announced that all “online news sites” that reach 50,000 unique viewers per month over a two-month period must secure a license to operate. The licensing regime took effect on June 1, and the Media Development Authority released a list of 10 websites that will initially be impacted, including AsiaOne.com, Business Times Singapore, and Yahoo! News Singapore.

“Singapore’s new licensing requirement casts a chill over the city-state’s robust and free-wheeling online communities, and will clearly limit Singaporeans’ access to independent media,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Websites will be forced into the role of private censors on behalf of the government.”

The new licensing rules seem intended to impose another check on popular websites more than to reduce any genuine harms, Human Rights Watch said. As a condition of the license, websites must comply within 24 hours with any requests from the Media Development Authority to remove content that the government deems objectionable. Websites are also required to post a S$50,000 (US$40,000) performance bond to ensure compliance. “News site” is defined broadly to include any site containing news or any matter or public interest related to Singapore, in any language – even if content is provided by a third party, as with readers’ comments on a website.

On May 30, several major independent websites in Singapore released a joint media statement in protest, contending that the new rules would “reduce the channels available to Singaporeans to receive news and analysis of the socio-political situation in Singapore.” The statement also said that the new rules would disproportionately harm citizen journalists and non-commercial, volunteer-run blogging platforms, who will not be able to afford the performance bond.

A group of bloggers have launched a campaign using the Twitter hashtag #FreeMyInternet, and on June 6, participants blacked out their websites to oppose the new rules. Bloggers have also organized a public event in Singapore’s Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park on June 8. Online commentators have expressed concern over the breadth of the definition of “online news sites,” warning that it could sweep in blogs that discuss a wide range of issues, and websites that enable users to discuss online content.

In response to criticism, the Media Development Authority clarified on its Facebook page on May 31 that, “An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his/her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting.” However, in a separate statement, the Authority undermined this claim by asserting that, “If they [blogs] take on the nature of news sites, we will take a closer look and evaluate them accordingly.”

The Media Development Authority also asserted that the framework is “not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites” and that it will only step in “when complaints are raised to [their] attention, and [they] assess that the content is in breach of the content guidelines and merits action by the website owner.”

Singapore’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, with exceptions for broadly worded restrictions in the name of security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony. Print and broadcast media are also subject to annual licensing requirements. In November 1997, the Media Development Authority introduced an Internet Code of Practice, which requires Internet service providers to restrict access to prohibited material and would apply to websites subject to the new license. The Code of Practice restricts any content that is “against public interest” or offends “good taste or decency,” including “material that advocates homosexuality or lesbianism.”

The definition of what might be deemed “against public interest” is vague and can be used arbitrarily by the government, leaving the licensing regime and content regulations open to selective enforcement and abuse, Human Rights Watch said.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists in Singapore have also criticized media censorship laws because they create a skewed portrayal of LGBT individuals in local, mainstream media. Given that Singapore still criminalizes male same-sex relations, instituting a 24-hour takedown requirement for “material that advocates homosexuality or lesbianism” on popular websites will only exacerbate the problem, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch said that the licensing regime is inconsistent with international human rights standards on freedom of expression. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, widely recognized as customary international law, provides that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In his May 2011 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, wrote that registration and licensing requirements “cannot be justified in the case of the Internet.”

“Singapore is placing its status as a world-class financial center at clear risk by extending its record of draconian media censorship to the digital world,” Wong said.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Internet freedom, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/topic/free-speech/internet-freedom

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Singapore, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/asia/singapore

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Cynthia Wong (English): +1-917-860-3186 (mobile); or wongc@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @cynthiamw
In New York, Mickey Spiegel (English): +1-212-216-1229; or spiegem@hrw.org
In Bangkok, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +66-85-060-8406 (mobile); or robertp@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @Reaproy
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-917-838-9736 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @johnsifton
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-510-926-8443 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @BradAdamsHRW



This blog will be blacked out on 6 June

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Here is a quick lunchtime posting:

Come 6 June 2013, 0000Hrs, this blog will blacked out for 24 hours in protest against the new licensing framework implemented by the Media Development Authority.

If you would like to join us in blacking out your blog, do visit www.freemyinternet.com.

Cheers! :)



#FreeMyInternet calls on Mr Baey and all MPs to push for the withdrawal of the licensing regime

5385_618093534882266_605125707_nOn 2 June 2013, between 10 p.m. – 12 midnight, PAP MP Baey Yam Keng became the first Member of Parliament (MP) to try to directly answer the questions concerned Singaporeans have about the new Media Development Authority (MDA) licensing regime. Mr Baey is an MP for Tampines GRC and the Deputy Chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) on Communications and Information.

#FreeMyInternet appreciates his candour and good grace in stepping forward, but regrets that Mr Baey was unable to address a key concern about the new legislation: the license regime was not put to Parliament as a whole before it became law.

Mr Baey was also unable to answer a key question that forms a main theme of the #FreeMyInternet campaign: does our government trust Singaporeans to make up their minds on the type of information they want to consume?

Mr Baey’s inability to defend the licensing regime confirms our position that its withdrawal is the only correct way forward. We appreciate Mr Baey’s confirmation that the licensing regime was not his “preferred approach”, and hope that his words will be reflected in the actions he is to take when Parliament next sits.

We continue to call on Mr Baey and all MPs to push for the withdrawal of the licensing regime.



#FreeMyInternet – Movement against new licensing requirements for online media

MEDIA STATEMENT – 1 JUNE 2013

5385_618093534882266_605125707_nThe blogging community – collectively called Free My Internet, will be organising a protest and online blackout next week against the new licensing requirements imposed by the Media Development Authority, which requires “online news sites” to put up a “performance bond” of $50,000 and “comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards”.

We encourage all Singaporeans who are concerned about our future and our ability to participate in everyday online activities and discussions, and to seek out alternative news and analysis,  to take a strong stand against the licensing regime which can impede on your independence.

We urge Singaporeans to turn up to send a clear message to our elected representatives to trust the Singaporeans who elected them.

Singaporeans can support us in three ways:

1)      Join us at the protest.

Date:   8 June 2013

Time:   4.00pm – 7.00pm

Venue: Speakers Corner, Hong Lim Park

2)      If you are a blogger, join us in an online blackout by closing your blog for 24 hours, from Thursday 6 June, 0001 hrs to 6 June, 2359 hrs. You can choose to create your own blackout notice, or use http://www.freemyinternet.com we have created for your convenience. When you reopen your blog, write your account of the protest, about the new regulations and censorship, or anything related to media freedom in Singapore. Share your thoughts. Share your hope that the light that free speech provides will not go out on us.

3)      Sign our petition and read our FAQ at this link to call for the Ministry of Communications and Information to completely withdraw the licensing regime.

We invite media to cover the protest at Hong Lim Park. To indicate media attendance and other media queries, please contact Howard Lee at howard@theonlinecitizen.com.

Signed off as: Free My Internet

Leong Sze Hian http://leongszehian.com/
Andrew Loh http://publichouse.sg/
Ravi Philemon http://www.raviphilemon.net/
Kumaran Pillai http://sgvoize.wordpress.com/
Terry Xu http://theonlinecitizen.com/
Richard Wan http://www.tremeritus.com/
Choo Zheng Xi http://theonlinecitizen.com/
Rachel Zeng http://rachelzeng.wordpress.com/
Roy Ngerng http://thehearttruths.com/
Kirsten Han http://spuddings.net/
Gilbert Goh http://www.transitioning.org/
Lynn Lee http://www.lianainfilms.com/
Biddy Low http://publichouse.sg/
Lim Han Thon http://publichouse.sg/
Martyn See http://singaporerebel.blogspot.sg/
Howard Lee http://theonlinecitizen.com/
Elaine Ee http://publichouse.sg/
Joshua Chiang http://facebook.com/joshuafly
Jeraldine Phneah http://theonlinecitizen.com
Donaldson Tan http://newasiarepublic.com
Stephanie Chok http://littlemskaypoh.wordpress.com
Jolovan Wham http://www.workfairsingapore.wordpress.com
Ng E-Jay http://www.sgpolitics.net
Siew Kum Hong http://siewkumhong.blogspot.sg/
Darryl Kang http://blog.dk.sg
Daniel Yap http://doulosyap.wordpress.com/
Jean Chong http://www.sayoni.com
Benjamin Cheah http://www.benjamincheah.wordpress.com/
Theodore Lee http://www.mrbrown.com
Benjamin Lee http://miyagi.sg
Illusio http://akikonomu.blogspot.com
Lee Xian Jie http://hachisu.com.sg
Damien Chng http://secondchances.asia/
Priscilla Chia http://secondchances.asia/


MAJOR ONLINE WEBSITES IN SINGAPORE TO PROTEST AGAINST LICENSING REQUIREMENT

handcuffs

MEDIA STATEMENT

Thursday, 30 May 2013

MAJOR ONLINE WEBSITES IN SINGAPORE TO PROTEST AGAINST LICENSING REQUIREMENT

The Media Development Authority had, on Tuesday, introduced a “licensing framework” that would require “online news sites” to put up a “performance bond” of $50,000 and “comply within 24 hours to MDA’s directions to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards”.

As part of the community of websites in Singapore that provide sociopolitical news and analysis to Singaporeans, we are concerned about the impact of the newly-introduced requirement on fellow Singaporeans’ ability to receive diverse news information.

While the S$50,000 performance bond is a drop in the ocean for a mainstream news outlet with an online presence, it would potentially be beyond the means of volunteer run and personal blogging platforms like ours. Hence, MDA’s claim that the licensing regime is intended to equalize the playing field between online and offline news is incorrect: the regulations will disproportionately affect us.

Further, we believe that the introduction of the licensing regime has not gone through the proper and necessary consultation and had been introduced without clear guidance. In a typical public consultation exercise, a government agency will publish a draft regulation with detailed explanation and issue a press release to invite members of the public to send in feedback for consideration. We observe this is not the case for the licensing regime.

We call on the Ministry of Communications and Information to withdraw the licensing regime. We call upon our elected representatives to oppose the licensing regime.

It is in the interest of Singaporeans and the long-term future for Singapore that the licensing regime be withdrawn.

The new licensing regime has the very real potential to reduce the channels available to Singaporeans to receive news and analysis of the sociopolitical situation in Singapore and it is in the interest of all Singaporeans to guard against the erosion of news channels that Singaporeans should rightfully have access to.

These new regulations significantly impact Singaporeans’ constitutionally protected right to free speech, and they should not be introduced without the most rigorous public debate and discussion.

The new regulations, and the manner in which they have been imposed by regulatory fiat, are unacceptable in any developed democracy.

Leong Sze Hian - http://leongszehian.com/

Andrew Loh - http://publichouse.sg

Ravi Philemon http://www.raviphilemon.net/

Kumaran Pillai - http://sgvoize.wordpress.com/

Terry Xu - http://theonlinecitizen.com/

Richard Wan - http://www.tremeritus.com/

Choo Zheng Xi http://theonlinecitizen.com/

Howard Lee - http://theonlinecitizen.com/

Rachel Zeng http://rachelzeng.wordpress.com/,

http://singaporeantideathpenaltycampaign.wordpress.com/

Roy Ngerng - http://thehearttruths.com/

Kirsten Han - http://spuddings.net/

Gilbert Goh - http://www.transitioning.org/

Nizam Ismail - http://nizamosaurus.wordpress.com/

Lynn Lee - http://www.lianainfilms.com/

Biddy Low http://publichouse.sg/

Alex Au - http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/

Martyn See - http://singaporerebel.blogspot.sg/

Howard Lee - http://theonlinecitizen.com/

Elaine Ee - http://publichouse.sg/

Lim Han Thon - http://publichouse.sg

Joshua Chiang

Donaldson Tan http://newasiarepublic.com

Stephanie Chok - http://littlemskaypoh.wordpress.com

Jolovan Wham http://www.workfairsingapore.wordpress.com

If you would like more information or for media enquires, please contact Howard Lee at howard@theonlinecitizen.com



REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS / REPORTERS SANS FRONTIÈRES 2013 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX
January 30, 2013, 7:02 pm
Filed under: Announcements, News Articles

(Singapore ranks 149th this year, dropping 14 places off the charts. We were at 135th last year.) 

01.30.2013

See the all reports, the press freedom map and the index :
http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

年无国界记者新闻自由榜 :
http://rsf-chinese.org/spip.php?article695
亚太国家 :
http://rsf-chinese.org/spip.php?article696 

Voir tous les rapports, la carte de la liberté de la presse et le classement :
http://fr.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2013,1054.html

Asia-Pacific: 2013 index 

Burmese spring an exception to decline in freedom of information in Asia

Only three Asian countries are in the top 25 percent of the table, while 15 countries are among the bottom 45 places. Unsurprisingly, one-party authoritarian governments figure more than ever among the predators of press freedom and languish at the bottom end of the table.

Burma’s paper revolution

Burma went through dramatic changes in 2012 and moved up to 151th place, a rise of 18 places, jumping ahead of its usual bedfellows in the media repression stakes. There are no longer any journalists or cyber dissidents in the jails of the old military dictatorship. Legislative reform has only just begun but the steps already taken by the government in favour of the media, such as an end to prior censorship and the permitted return of media organizations from exile, are significant steps towards genuine freedom of information.

China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea: no signs of improvement

North Korea (178th), China (173rd), Vietnam (172nd) and Laos (168th), all ruled by authoritarian parties, still refuse to grant their citizens the freedom to be informed. The control of news and information is a key issue for these government, which are horrified at the prospect of being open to criticism. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father Kim Jong-il on 30 December 2011, appears to rule in concert with the military junta.

In Vietnam and China, those involved in online news and information, such as bloggers and netizens, are forced to deal with increasingly harsh repression. Many Tibetan monks have been convicted or abducted for having sent information abroad about the disastrous state of human rights in Tibet. Commercial news outlets and foreign media organizations are still censored regularly by the propaganda department. Faced with the growing power of social networks and their ability to muster support, the authorities have redoubled their efforts to hone their capability to track “sensitive” content and delete it immediately from the Web. In less than a year, Vietnamese courts have sentenced 12 bloggers and cyber-dissidents to jail terms of up to 13 years, making the country the world’s second biggest prison for netizens, after China.

General decline in freedom of information in South Asia

The Indian subcontinent was the Asian region that saw the sharpest deterioration in the climate for those involved in news and information in 2012. In the Maldives, which crashed to 103rd place (-30), the events that led to the resignation of President Mohammed Nasheed in February led to violence and threats against journalists in state television and private media outlets regarded as pro-Nasheed by the coup leaders.

Attacks on press freedom have increased since then. Many journalists have been arrested, assaulted and threatened during anti-government protests. On June 5, the freelance journalist and blogger Ismail “Hilath” Rasheed narrowly survived the first attempted murder of a journalist in the archipelago.

Four journalists were killed in India and Bangladesh in 2012, which fell to 140th and 144th respectively in the index. In India, the “world’s biggest democracy”, the authorities insist on censoring the Web and imposing more and more taboos, while violence against journalists goes unpunished and the regions of Kashmir and Chhattisgarh become increasingly isolated. Bangladesh is not far behind. Its journalists are frequently targets of police violence. When they are not acting as aggressors, the security forces stand by passively while enemies of the media enjoy impunity and are rarely brought to justice. The killers of the journalists Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi, and those behind the double murder, remained at large and the investigation was cynically entrusted to the Rapid Action Battalion where it remains bogged down.

The ability of journalists to work freely in Pakistan (159th, -8) and Nepal (118th, -12) continued to worsen in the absence of any government policy to protect media workers. Despite having a diverse and lively media, Pakistan remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries for reporters.

Japan resorts to press restrictions

Japan, demoted from 22nd to 53rd place, recorded the biggest drop of any Asian country. The reason was the ban imposed by the authorities on independent coverage of any topic related directly or indirectly to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Several freelance journalists who complained that public debate was being stifled were subjected to censorship, police intimidation and judicial harassment.

The continued existence of the discriminatory system of “kisha clubs”, exclusive press clubs which restrict access to information to their own members, is a key element that could prevent the country from moving up the index significantly in the near future.

Afghanistan: genuine but fragile improvement

Afghanistan (128th, +22) has a considerably better rating than in previous years, although violence against journalists did not disappear completely and the government neglected to tackle the issue of impunity. No journalists were killed in 2012 and arrests of media workers declined. The withdrawal of some foreign troops from the international coalition and deteriorating conditions in neighbouring Pakistan meant these improvements were precarious.

Cambodia and Malaysia: drift towards authoritarianism

Conditions for the media are critical in Cambodia, which fell 26 places to 146th in the index, its lowest ever position. Since 2011, news organizations, in particular independent local and foreign radio stations, have been subjected to a policy of censorship orchestrated by an increasingly ruthless information ministry. On 1 October 2012, Mam Sonando, the owner of an independent radio station, was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment for insurrection and inciting others to take up arms against the state. The decline in freedom of information also involved deadly attacks and death threats aimed at journalists who exposed government corruption and illegal activities harmful to the environment.

Malaysia (145th) also presented a sorry record, falling 23 places to a position below the one it had in 2002. Despite an all-out battle by rights activists and online media outlets, a campaign of repression by the government, illustrated by the crackdown on the “Bersih 3.0” protest in April, and repeated censorship efforts, continue to undermine basic freedoms, in particular the right to information.

Papua-New Guinea and Fiji: threats against journalists greeted with indifference

Threats to the media should not be taken lightly in these two Pacific archipelagos. In Papua-New Guinea (41st, -6), the security forces are regularly involved in attacks on journalists. In Fiji (107th), despite a 10-place rise explained in part by the decline of other countries in this section of the index, news organizations are threatened under the Media Industry Development Decree with exorbitant fines, or even imprisonment, as in the case of a recently convicted  editor of the Fiji Times.

2013 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX


Dashed hopes follow spring
 

 After the “Arab springs” and other protest movements that prompted many rises and falls in last year’s index, the 2013 ReportersWithout Borders World Press Freedom Index marks a return to a more usual configuration.

The ranking of most countries is no longer attributable to dramatic political developments. This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term.
The same three European countries that headed the index last year hold the top three positions again this year. For the third year running, Finland has distinguished itself as the country that most respects media freedom. It is followed by the Netherlands and Norway.

Although many criteria are considered, ranging from legislation to violence against journalists, democratic countries occupy the top of the index while dictatorial countries occupy the last three positions. Again it is the same three as last year – Turkmenistan,North Korea and Eritrea.

“The Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“In dictatorships, news providers and their families are exposed to ruthless reprisals, while in democracies news providers have to cope with the media’s economic crises and conflicts of interest. While their situation is not always comparable, we should pay tribute to all those who resist pressure whether it is aggressively focused or diffuse.”

Reporters Without Borders launches media freedom “indicator” 

Coinciding with the release of its 2013 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders is for the first time publishing an annual global “indicator” of worldwide media freedom. This new analytic tool measures the overall level of freedom of information in the world and the performance of the world’s governments in their entirety as regards this key freedom.

In view of the emergence of new technologies and the interdependence of governments and peoples, the freedom to produce and circulate news and information needs to be evaluated at the planetary as well as national level. Today, in 2013, the media freedom “indicator” stands at 3395, a point of reference for the years to come.

The indicator can also be broken down by region and, by means of weighting based on the population of each region, can be used to produce a score from zero to 100 in which zero represents total respect for media freedom. This produces a score of 17.5 for Europe, 30.0 for the Americas, 34.3 for Africa, 42.2 for Asia-Pacific and 45.3 for the former Soviet republics. Despite the Arab springs, the Middle East and North Africa region comes last with 48.5.

The high number of journalists and netizens killed in the course of their work in 2012 (the deadliest year ever registered byReporters Without Borders in its annual roundup), naturally had an a significant impact on the ranking of the countries where these murders took place, above all Somalia (175th, -11), Syria (176th, 0), Mexico (153rd, -4) and Pakistan (159th, -8).

From top to bottom 

The Nordic countries have again demonstrated their ability to maintain an optimal environment for news providers. Finland (1st, 0),Netherlands (2nd, +1) and Norway (3rd, -2) have held on to the first three places. Canada (20th, -10) only just avoided dropping out of the top 20. Andorra (5th) and Liechtenstein (7th) have entered the index for the first time just behind the three leaders.

At the other end of the index, the same three countries as ever – Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea – occupy the last three places in the index. Kim Jong-un’s arrival at the head of the Hermit Kingdom has not in any way changed the regime’s absolute control of news and information. Eritrea (179th, 0), which was recently shaken by a brief mutiny by soldiers at the information ministry, continues to be a vast open prison for its people and lets journalists die in detention. Despite its reformist discourse, the Turkmen regime has not yielded an inch of its totalitarian control of the media.

For the second year running, the bottom three countries are immediately preceded by Syria (176th, 0), where a deadly information war is being waged, and Somalia (175th, -11), which has had a deadly year for journalists. Iran (174th, +1), China (173rd, +1),Vietnam (unchanged at 172nd), Cuba (171st, -4), Sudan (170th, 0) and Yemen (169th, +2) complete the list of the ten countries that respect media freedom least. Not content with imprisoning journalists and netizens, Iran also harasses the relatives of journalists, including the relatives of those who are abroad.

Big rises… 

Malawi (75th, +71) registered the biggest leap in the index, almost returning to the position it held before the excesses at the end of the Mutharika administration. Côte d’Ivoire (96th, +63), which is emerging from the post-electoral crisis between the supporters of Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, has also soared, attaining its best position since 2003. Burma (151st, +18) continued the ascent begun in last year’s index. Previously, it had been in the bottom 15 every year since 2002 but now, thanks to the Burmese spring’s unprecedented reforms, it has reached its best-ever position. Afghanistan (128th, +22) also registered a significant rise thanks to the fact that no journalists are in prison. It is nonetheless facing many challenges, especially with the withdrawal of foreign troops.

…and big falls 

Mali (99th, -74) registered the biggest fall in the index as a result of all the turmoil in 2012. The military coup in Bamako on 22 March and the north’s takeover by armed Islamists and Tuareg separatists exposed the media in the north to censorship and violence. Tanzania (70th, -36) sank more than 30 places because, in the space of four months, a journalist was killed while covering a demonstration and another was murdered.

Buffeted by social and economic protests, the Sultanate of Oman (141st) sank 24 places, the biggest fall in the Middle East and North Africa in 2012. Some 50 netizens and bloggers were prosecuted on lèse majesté or cyber-crime charges in 2012. No fewer than 28 were convicted in December alone, in trials that trampled on defence rights.

Journalists in Israel (112th, -20) enjoy real freedom of expression despite the existence of military censorship but the country fell in the index because of the Israeli military’s targeting of journalists in the Palestinian Territories.

In Asia, Japan (53rd, -31) has been affected by a lack of transparency and almost zero respect for access to information on subjects directly or indirectly related to Fukushima. This sharp fall should sound an alarm. Malaysia (145th, -23) has fallen to its lowest-ever position because access to information is becoming more andmore limited. The same situation prevails in Cambodia(143rd, -26), where authoritarianism and censorship are on the increase. Macedonia (116th, -22) has also fallen more than 20 places following the arbitrary withdrawal of media licences and deterioration in the environment for journalists.

Varied impact of major protest movements 

Last year’s index was marked by the Arab spring’s major news developments and the heavy price paid by those covering the protest movements. A range of scenarios has been seen in 2012, including countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, where regime change has taken place, countries such as Syria and Bahrain where uprisings and the resulting repression are still ongoing, and countries such as Morocco, Algeria, Oman, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, where the authorities have used promises and compromise to defuse calls for political and/or social and economic change.

Some of the new governments spawned by these protests movements have turned on the journalists and netizens who covered these movements’ demands and aspirations for more freedom. What with legal voids, arbitrary appointments of state media chiefs, physical attacks, trials and a lack of transparency, Tunisia (138th, -4) and Egypt (158th, +8) have remained at a deplorable level in the index and have highlighted the stumbling blocks that Libya (131st, +23) should avoid in order to maintain its transition to a free press.

The deadliest country for journalists in 2012 was Syria (176th, 0), where journalists and netizens are the victims of an information war waged by both the Assad regime, which stops at nothing in order to crack down and impose a news blackout, and by opposition factions that are increasingly intolerant of dissent. In Bahrain (165th, +8) the repression let up slightly, while in Yemen(169th, +2) the prospects continue to be disturbing despite a change of government. Oman (141st, -24) fell sharply because of a wave of arrests of netizens.

Other countries hit by protests saw changes for the better and worse. Vietnam (172nd, 0) failed to recover the six places it lost in the previous index. The world’s second biggest prison for netizens, it has remained in the bottom ten. Uganda (104th, +35) has recovered a more appropriate position although it has not gone back to where it was before cracking down on protests in 2011.

Azerbaijan (156th, +6) and Belarus (157th, +11) both fell last year after using violence to suppress opposition demonstrations and this year they just moved back towards their appalling former positions. Chile (60th, +20) is beginning to recover after plummeting 33 places to 80th in last year’s index.

Political instability puts journalists in the eye of the storm 

Political instability often has a divisive effect on the media and makes it very difficult to produce independently-reported news and information. In such situations, threats and physical attacks on journalists and staff purges are common. Maldives (103rd, -30) fell sharply after the president’s removal in an alleged coup, followed by threats and attacks on journalists regarded as his supporters. In Paraguay (91st, -11), the president’s removal in a parliamentary “coup” on 22 June 2012 had a big impact on state-owned broadcasting, with a wave of arbitrary dismissals against a backdrop of unfair frequency allocation.
Guinea-Bissau (92nd, -17) fell sharply because the army overthrew the government between the first and second rounds of a presidential election and imposed military censorship on the media. In Mali (99th, -74), a military coup fuelled tension, many journalists were physically attacked in the capital and the army now controls the state-owned media. This index does not reflect the January 2013 turmoil in the Central African Republic (65th, -3) but its impact on media freedom is already a source of extreme concern.

“Regional models” found wanting 

In almost all parts of the world, influential countries that are regarded as “regional models” have fallen in the index. Brazil (108th, -9), South America’s economic engine, continued last year’s fall because five journalists were killed in 2012 and because of persistent problems affecting media pluralism.

In Asia, India (140th, -9) is at its lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because Internet censorship continues to grow. China (173rd, +1) shows no sign of improving. Its prisons still hold many journalists and netizens, while increasingly unpopular Internet censorship continues to be a major obstacle to access to information.

In Eastern Europe, Russia (148th, -6) has fallen again because, since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency, repression has been stepped up in response to an unprecedented wave of opposition protests. The country also continues to be marked by the unacceptable failure to punish all those who have murdered or attacked journalists. The political importance of Turkey (154th, -6) has grown even more because of the armed conflict in neighbouring Syria but it has again fallen in the index. It is currently the world’s biggest prison for journalists, especially those who express views critical of the authorities on the Kurdish issue.

There is no comparison with South Africa (52nd, -10), where freedom of information is a reality. It still has a respectable ranking but it has been slipping steadily in the index and, for the first time, is no longer in the top 50. Investigative journalism is threatened by the Protection of State Information Bill.

Democracies that stall or go into reverse 

The situation is unchanged for much of the European Union. Sixteen of its members are still in the top 30. But the European model is unravelling. The bad legislation seen in 2011 continued, especially in Italy (57th, +4), where defamation has yet to be decriminalized and state agencies make dangerous use of gag laws. Hungary (56th, -16) is still paying the price of its repressive legislative reforms, which had a major impact on the way journalists work. But Greece’s dramatic fall (84th, -14) is even more disturbing. The social and professional environment for its journalists, who are exposed to public condemnation and violence from both extremist groups and the police, is disastrous.

Japan (53rd, -31) plummeted because of censorship of nuclear industry coverage and its failure to reform the “kisha club” system. This is an alarming fall for a country that usually has a good ranking. Argentina (54th, -7) fell amid growing tension and clashes between the government and certain privately-owned media about a new law regulating the broadcast media.



Statement in Support of SKLO
June 10, 2012, 3:24 am
Filed under: Announcements, Singapore

This is a statement of Faith, Hope and Love

Faith – We applaud the creativity and ingenuity of Samantha Lo, aka SKLO. She has given us renewed faith that people in Singapore are not humourless,non-creative robotic individuals.

Love – We love the tongue-in-cheek stickers that have never failed to bring smiles onto our faces.

Hope – We hope that her work will not be considered vandalism, but a creative form of public service that has brought about much laughter to passer-bys who stumble upon her work. Her work has also made our streets more colourful and interesting, which is one of the many purposes of street art.

Thus,instead of applying harsh punishment, we should celebrate her humour and creativity as well as the very existence of street art in Singapore. In the pursuit of making Singapore into an arts hub,we should embrace such forms of artistic expression which brings out light-hearted positivity in us. ♥

Statement released by: Press To Support SKLO

Read about the arrest here.

Sign the petition here.




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