Bloggers submit Proposals for Internet freedom in Singapore to Minister for Information, Communication & the Arts

April 21, 2008 by · 7 Comments
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A group of bloggers have submitted a paper entitled “Proposals for Internet freedom in Singapore” to Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts.

The paper points out the various defects in current media laws and regulations governing internet content in Singapore, such as instituting vague restrictions which gives authorities too much leeway in interpretation of the law, conferring arbitrary power on the Media Development Authority (MDA) to penalize owners of websites that in its judgment have violated MDA’s own rules, and the regulation of political content which is unjustified in principle and unenforceable in practice.

In short, media and internet laws in Singapore are in need of urgent review. Laws will always be necessary, but the rule of law demands that the laws are clear, and that there are checks and balances to ensure that the laws are only used to address legitimate social needs. Too many of the existing regulations do not meet these benchmarks.

The paper proposes ways of addressing the defects in current laws and regulations with respect to 3 main areas: (a) political expression, (b) hate speech and (c) sex and violence.

These proposals are designed to be consistent with fundamental principles of free speech. In contrast, Singapore’s laws and regulations governing speech on the internet have grown ad hoc and topsy-turvy, involving way too much administrative discretion, leading to the current confused and over-regulated state of affairs which results in free speech being infringed upon.

As a member of the group, I have assented to all parts of the proposal except for the part relating to hate speech. In my personal opinion, current laws penalizing racial or religious hate speech, such as Sections 298 and 298A of the Penal Code, is acceptable and need not be changed.

The cover letter sent to Dr Lee Boon Yang as well as the full write up is appended below.

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