Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
- Freedoms of speech and expression are guaranteed by Article 14 of the constitution, but these rights are limited in practice.
- The Newspapers and Printing Presses Act (NPPA), the Defamation Act, and the Internal Security Act (ISA) constrain press freedom, allowing the authorities to restrict the circulation of news that is deemed to incite violence, arouse racial or religious tensions, interfere in domestic politics, or threaten public order, the national interest, or national security. The Sedition Act, in effect since the colonial period, outlaws seditious speech, the distribution of seditious materials, and acts with “seditious tendency.”
- The defamation and other restrictive press laws are used to intimidate the press, quiet political opposition, and deter investigative journalism. Media also face harsh punishments for perceived personal attacks on government officials.
- Foreign media in Singapore are subject to many of the same pressures and restrictive laws as domestic outlets. In March 2009, Wall Street Journal editor Melanie Kirkpatrick was found guilty of contempt of court for two articles and an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal Asia in 2008. She was ordered to pay a fine of SG$10,000 (US$6,600).
- In November, the Far Eastern Economic Review paid a SG$405,000 (US$290,000) settlement for a suit related to a 2006 article that allegedly defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew. The settlement came after an appellate court upheld a lower court’s 2008 judgment against the magazine. The article in question was based on an interview with leading opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, the secretary general of the Singapore Democratic Party. The original ruling was made by summary judgment, and the case never went to trial.
- In October 2009, British freelance journalist Benjamin Bland’s application to renew his work visa was rejected by the Manpower Ministry. When Bland inquired as to why his application was rejected, the ministry’s senior assistant director said that the reasons could not be disclosed. Bland had written for a variety of prestigious local and international news publications.
- As a result of the potential legal repercussions for critical speech, the vast majority of print and broadcast journalists practice self-censorship when reporting on domestic and foreign policy issues.
- Films, television programs, music, books, and magazines are sometimes actively censored by the Media Development Authority.
- Cases of physical attacks and harassment against members of the press are rare, and none were reported in 2009.
- All domestic print and broadcast media outlets, internet-service providers (ISPs), and cable television services are owned or controlled by the state or by companies with close ties to the ruling People’s Action Party.
- Under the ISA and the Undesirable Publications Act (UPA), the distribution of specific publications can be banned. The government is also empowered to prevent the transmission of television and radio content.
- The NPPA requires annual licensing of all media outlets, which is regulated by the Ministry of Information, Communication, and the Arts.
- Though Singaporeans generally have unrestricted access to the internet, it is monitored by the government and subject to the same laws as traditional media. All ISPs must be licensed by the government. The internet was accessed by approximately 77 percent of the population in 2009.