Teenage blogger trial ‘deeply worrying’ sign of Singapore’s attempts to curb free expression
Aug.16, Geneva: Concerned over increased criminalization of expression , a United Nations human rights expert expressed serious concern about the upcoming trial of a 17-year old Singaporean for Facebook posts and blog comments that wounded the religious feelings of Muslims and Christians.
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, warned in a press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), that: “First, the trial concerns an expression that is lawful under international human rights law, and second, the person being tried is considered a child under international human rights law.”
The blogger’s trial is scheduled for 17 August. If convicted, he may face up to three years in jail. Last year, this same blogger was sentenced to four weeks in prison for posting a video that caricatured Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Noting that the teenager’s trial was one of several cases in Singapore, he pointed out that it reflected a widening crackdown – not only on controversial expression but also political criticism and dissent.
“International human rights law allows only serious and extreme instances of incitement to hatred to be prohibited as criminal offences, not other forms of expression, even if they are offensive, disturbing or shocking,” Kaye stressed.
In May, human rights lawyer Teo Soh Lung and blogger Roy Ngerng were investigated for allegedly breaching the Parliamentary Elections Act by posting, on their private Facebook pages, comments regarding government transparency and accountability.
While the Act prohibits campaigning in the last 24 hours prior to elections, it explicitly exempts the online expression of a private individual’s political views. The press release indicated that this was the first time individuals were investigated under such provisions.
Despite invoking the Parliamentary Elections Act to investigate, search and confiscate the personal belongings of Teo Soh Lung and Roy Ngerng, no charges have, to date, been brought against them.
The Oslo Times International News Network