Statement by members of the general public on the AGC’s action against Mr Alex Au
Statement by members of the general public on the Attorney General’s Chambers’ action against Mr Au for his blog posts.
29 November 2013
We are deeply concerned that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has been granted leave to take action against Singaporean blogger, Mr Alex Au, for “scandalising the judiciary” in his blog post, “377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court’s Best Laid Plans”.
The right of free expression is enshrined in Article 14 of our Constitution. We believe that robust public debate is necessary for national progress. The AGC’s action, however, reflects an overzealous desire to police public opinion. This cannot be healthy for a mature, first world nation. If Mr Au had erred, then his claims should be rebutted in public. This would enable Singaporeans to make up their own minds.
We agree that it is important to uphold public confidence in the judiciary. However, this cannot mean that our judges should not be subject to scrutiny. The AGC’s action, rather than enhancing confidence in the judiciary, might weaken public confidence. It also implies that the public is not allowed to form opinions on judicial processes.
International legal opinion supports the advancement of the law in respect of public comment. In 2012, the UK Law Commission recommended abolishing the offence of “scandalising the judiciary” because it is “an infringement of freedom of expression and out of step with social attitudes”. The Commission noted that the offence,
“belongs to an era when deferential respect to the judiciary was the norm. But social attitudes have changed. Enforcing the offence today would do little to reinforce respect for the judiciary and, if judges are thought to be using it to protect their own, could strengthen any existing distrust or disrespect.”2
We note that the AGC action against Mr Au is not in keeping with the spirit of Singapore’s position at the 2011 UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights that “Political postings on the Internet are prevalent, including many that are highly critical of the Government. No blogger or other online publisher has been prosecuted for such postings.”3 Further, this AGC action contradicts Singapore’s obligations in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, adopted on 18 November 2012. Article 23 states, “Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice.”4
We call upon the AGC to help the Government of Singapore uphold its ideals and its international commitments, for the continued progress and prosperity of our nation.
http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/news/2140.htm. The full report is available at http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/lc335_scandalising_the_court.pdf. The offence has since been abolished in the UK.
On 25th November 2013, The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has filed for an application to bring a contempt of court action against Mr Au over two posts published on his blog Yawning Bread last month.
The two posts are titled “377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court’s Best-Laid Plans” and ”Church Sacks Employee And Sues Government – On One Ground Right, On Another Ground Wrong”.
However Justice Belinda Ang ruled on Wednesday, 27th November 2013 that the AGC can only proceed with contempt of court action on one of his blog posts titled “377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court’s Best-Laid Plans” that was published on October 5.