Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The authorities continued to restrict freedoms of speech and assembly in 2009. In April, Singapore’s legislature passed a measure that would require police permission for public assemblies of all sizes, removing a previous threshold of five or more people. In October, the Far Eastern Economic Review lost an appeal in a defamation case brought by the prime minister and his father; the magazine agreed to settle the case in November and was shuttered by its owners in December.
Over the next three years, Lee continued to pursue his economic agenda while using the legal system and other tools to keep the opposition in check. The government also maintained that racial sensitivities and the threat of Islamist terrorism justified draconian restrictions on freedoms of speech and assembly. Such rules were repeatedly used to silence criticism of the authorities. Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) leader Chee Soon Juan faced multiple convictions and heavy fines for defamation and other crimes in 2007 and 2008, while the Far Eastern Economic Review, a 63-year-old magazine owned by the U.S.-based News Corporation, was forced to pay some US$300,000 in November 2009 to settle a defamation case brought by the Lees.
Singapore is not an electoral democracy. The country is governed through a parliamentary system, and elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, but the ruling PAP dominates the political process. The prime minister retains control over the Elections Department, and the country lacks a structurally independent election authority. Opposition campaigns are hamstrung by a ban on political films and television programs, the threat of libel suits, strict regulations on political associations, and the PAP’s influence on the media and the courts.