Singapore Government Bullies The Economist But Fails To Refute.
Following a familiar pattern, the Singapore High Commissioner to the UK has responded to The Economist’s article on the US immigration judge’s ruling in favour of Amos Yee’s asylum bid.
Belmont Lay writes about it here and says that The Economist “printed her letter in full” as though her letter carried weight or had especially convincing arguments.
The fact is that her letter could have been 27 pages of Pig Latin and The Economist would have printed it in full. Why? Well, what Lay fails to mention is that The Economist, like all foreign publications sold in Singapore , is required to publish in full any letter from one of these very highly paid mercenaries for the PAP, including arch nincompoop Bilahari Kausikan. If they do not, the Singapore Government has the power to restrict their circulation in Singapore.
This is why sometimes in the past the whole letters page, not only of The Economist but also of the Wall Street Journal and other publications, has been filled up with tedious letters from PAP representatives containing the same propaganda and so-called rebuttal that Singaporeans have to read every day in the state media. An American reader, fortunate not to live in an authoritarian state, once wrote in to complain that she had paid good money to read The Economist and objected to the Letters Page being taken up with garbage from a repressive regime. The Economist wasted more paper and ink explaining the distribution agreement to her.
Singaporeans reading the High Commissioner’s letter might be under the mistaken impression that Ms Foo has refuted The Economist and Justice Cole’s judgement. They might think that these arguments were not heard at the hearing and that they are being presented for the first time. The PAP Government wants you to think that the hearing was one-sided and that the US tolerates hate speech or has a lower of standard than Singapore. However Ms Foo was not at the hearing. Neither was Sunil Sudheesan from the Association of Criminal Lawyers, who has not replied to my open letter, nor Shanmugam, whose ministry put out the same arguments that Ms Foo has tediously rehashed, and nor Gopalan Nair, who shot himself in the foot by asking Amos for money and who is now performing contortions to support the PAP Government’s position.
I was at the hearing and you can read my post on the judgement here. Counsel from the US Department of Homeland Security opposed Amos’s application for asylum and argued strongly that Amos had been fairly prosecuted and convicted for posts offending religion and for obscenity. They cross-examined me aggressively to agree that Amos’s posts were offensive. The judge heard all those arguments and came back with a 13 page judgement which, as The Economist pointed out, was unusual in that most judgements in asylum cases are not written. The judge found that it did not matter that Amos had been validly convicted in a Singaporean court of law. As he said:
this is the modus operandi for the Singapore regime-critics of the government are silenced by civil suit for defamation or criminal prosecutions.
So though Yee’s prosecutions may have been legal under Singapore law, they clearly served a “nefarious purpose”, namely to silence political dissent.
Ms Foo has not produced one shred of new evidence to refute the judge’s finding that opponents of the government are silenced through the use of the law. Instead she just rehashes the old argument that Amos was validly convicted for hate speech, an argument that Justice Cole demolished so effectively in his judgement.
As The Economist points out Yee was given asylum not because of what he said but because of how Singapore treated him because of what he said.
Foo also says that “Singapore’s laws on contempt do not prevent fair criticisms of court judgments, as the article itself demonstrates“. However in this as in everything else she is being disingenuous. If the Government is not trying to intimidate Singaporeans from criticising the judiciary why did it feel it necessary to strengthen the already severe restrictions on freedom to criticise the judiciary by bringing in the Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill in 2016? This strengthens the sanctions for contempt of court that were already available to the courts through the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, the State Courts Act and the Criminal Procedure Code and creates a specific offence of scandalising the judiciary. By contrast the UK abolished the offence of ‘scandalising the judiciary’ in 2013
Here’s another link explaining The Economist’s tangle in 1993 and detailing the history of the foreign press controlling regulation.
Click to access FEER%20Text.pdf
Lester Kok your comments keep getting caught in our spam filter. Please submit them again without multiple links to unverified sites. Thanks KJ.
“An American reader, fortunate not to live in an authoritarian state, once wrote in to complain that she had paid good money to read The Economist and objected to the Letters Page being taken up with garbage from a repressive regime. The Economist wasted more paper and ink explaining the distribution agreement to her.”
Do you have a link to this? Or a copy of the letter and subsequent explanation?
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I don’t have a link but I’m sure you can Google it or ask the economist to provide you with one.
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Here’s a link that provides some general information about the draconian distribution agreements that foreign media publications have to sign up to in order to publish in Singapore. The general principle applied by LKY was to give a choice, either you print their rebuttals in full or have your distribution cut and put out without adverts. LKY famously said he would hurt publications where it mattered, in their pockets. He was absolutely right. All of them kowtow. The Economist has at least 10% of its total Asian readership and therefore advertising revenue in Singapore. It prints the government letters in full in preference to,losing its distribution or adverts.