Singapore: Contempt of court bill is a threat to freedom of expression
Singapore’s Administration of Justice (Protection) Bill is a broad and vaguely worded law that will impose yet another undue restriction on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.
“Under the guise of protecting the judicial system, the new law threatens to criminalise people for criticising the courts or the administration of justice in Singapore,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
The new law, which was passed by Singapore’s parliament yesterday, includes punishments of up to three years in jail and $100,000 (US) in fines.
Several sections in the new law grant the authorities far-reaching powers to crack down on any discussion, debate and criticism of cases under review by the judiciary.
Under the guise of protecting the judicial system, the new law threatens to criminalise people for criticising the courts or the administration of justice in Singapore
Section 11 of the Act, for example, widens the scope of already stifling restrictions on what can be said or written on the internet. All material that can be accessed by people in Singapore, regardless of whether it originated from there, can be subjected to the new legislation.
Section 12 of the Act levies a threat of imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to $100,000 (US) for commenting on an ongoing case, including one’s own proceedings.
Amnesty International is concerned that the new law will bar human rights defenders and civil society from discussing any judicial proceeding, including cases of public interest and crucial importance to the enhancement of human rights in the country.
“This new law not only threatens to diminish the limited space that the mainstream media has, but could deny people access to information and have a chilling effect on bloggers and social media users,” said Josef Benedict.
In January 2016, numerous countries raised concerns about the use of legislation to restrict the right to freedom of expression and prosecute human rights defenders and government critics in Singapore during the country’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council.