The authorities continued to harass and prosecute bloggers and dissidents. Media remained heavily regulated through the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act. Judicial caning and the death penalty continued to be applied.
Freedoms of expression and assembly
Political activists, bloggers and government critics faced prosecution and other reprisals for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.
There were concerns that the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act, passed in August, could target human rights defenders for criticizing the courts or the administration of justice. Punishments for contempt of court offences included up to three years’ imprisonment and fines of up to SG$100,000 (US$70,000).
In June, blogger and political activist Han Hui was convicted of illegal assembly and “causing a public nuisance”; this prevented her from running in parliamentary elections. She was fined SG$3,100 (US$2,281), for leading a peaceful protest in 2014 in Hong Lim Park, the only space where people were permitted to demonstrate without a police permit. She appealed the decision.1
Also in June, political activists Roy Ngerng and Teo Soh Lung were subjected to hours of investigation for Facebook postings on a by-election “cooling off” day, which prohibits campaigning on the eve of elections.2
In September, Amos Yee, a teenage blogger, was sentenced to six weeks’ imprisonment for uploading videos in which he allegedly “wounded the religious feelings of others”.3
There were concerns that a decision by the Court of Appeal to prohibit human rights lawyer M. Ravi from practising law for a further two years, may have been politically motivated.
Death sentences continued to be imposed and carried out. In June, Kho Jabing, a Malaysian national convicted of murder, was executed hours after his final appeal was rejected. The mandatory death penalty remained applicable for a range of offences, some of which did not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” under international law.
Counter-terror and security
Concerns remained about the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows the detention of suspects without trial for indefinitely renewable two-year periods. Fifty-eight people were said to have been detained under the ISA since January 2015.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalizes consensual sexual relations between men, remained. In June, the Home Affairs Ministry called on corporate sponsors to rescind sponsorship of the Pink Dot festival, an annual LGBTI gathering.