Responding to Singapore lawmakers passing legislation that seeks to prevent foreign interference in domestic affairs, Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, said:
“The passing of Singapore’s foreign interference law constitutes a brutal attack on the rights to freedom of expression and association, creating yet another tool that can be used arbitrarily by the authorities to stifle government critics and crush dissent in the country.”
“When Singapore’s leaders speak of hostile foreign information campaigns that they perceive as stoking the fires of subversion, they use this fear-cloaked rhetoric merely to justify their own attempts to stamp out and silence dissenting voices.”
“The foreign interference law is so vague and broadly worded that it could be used to silence almost any government critic. It arrives just weeks after independent media site The Online Citizen – a popular site for alternative political views – was forced to shut down over alleged failures to identify its funding sources, raising alarm bells that the Singapore authorities are intensifying their efforts to enforce total subservience to the state.”
“The fact that this legislation was rushed through parliament, lacks sufficient independent oversight, and introduces severe and disproportionate penalties only adds to evidence of Singapore’s authoritarian leanings.”
“Amnesty International calls on the government to rescind this law and uphold the right to freedom of expression in Singapore.”
After a late-night parliamentary session, Singapore’s lawmakers passed the Foreign Interference (Counter-measures) Act (FICA) on 4 October. The legislation allows the authorities to force social media platforms and internet service providers to hand over user data, block content and remove applications that share information considered by the authorities to be anti-state.
Moreover, any individuals or groups deemed politically significant in Singapore would be required to declare sources of foreign funding and face potential “countermeasures” in order to remove any foreign interference deemed hostile.
Those caught breaking the law, which still needs to be formally ratified by president Halimah Yacob in order to officially pass, could face lengthy prison terms or fines.
On 16 September 2021, The Online Citizen, a popular online website for alternative political views, went offline hours before a government-imposed deadline to suspend the site for failing to declare its sources of funding. The site ceased operating just days after Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loon first tabled the Foreign Interference (Counter-measures) Act (FICA) on 13 September 2021.
According to the government, FICA aims to strengthen the “ability to prevent, detect and disrupt foreign interference in [Singapore’s] domestic politics conducted through (i) hostile information campaigns (HICs) and (ii) the use of local proxies.”