… But Closed Minds?

A report from Foreign Policy – The magazine of global politics, economics and ideas.
By Lisa Murray

Singapore’s government exerts an almost legendary degree of social control. Just ask the last person caught on the subway chewing gum, which is illegal to import or sell. More than likely they were fined and possibly spent some time in jail. You may also get into trouble with Singapore’s police if you walk around your house naked, have oral sex, or fail to flush a public toilet. But while, say, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani might find much to admire in such strictures, Singapore’s controls on media and political expression reflect a different mind-set. A sampling:

It is illegal to own a private satellite dish without obtaining a license. Offenders will lose their satellite dish and face a maximum fine of S$40,000 or a jail term of no more than three years.

You must apply for a license to form a society or speak publicly. All societies with at least 10 persons must be registered. An application may be rejected if the society is deemed prejudicial to public peace, welfare, or good order in Singapore. The government introduced a speakers’ corner in September 2000 (sans microphones) to appease freedom-of-speech lobbyists. Speakers must register their names with the police but do not have to apply for a license.

The Internet is regulated through licensing and proxy servers. In 1997, Singapore published an ‘Internet Code of Practice’ as part of the Singapore Broadcasting Authority Act to ensure that “nothing is included in any broadcasting service which is against public interest or order, national harmony or which offends against good taste or decency.”

Political advertising that uses films or videos is banned. Under an amendment to the Films Act in 1998, any person who imports, makes, reproduces, or distributes a film “made by any person and directed toward any political end in Singapore” could be fined or jailed up to two years.By Lisa Murray, 14, June 2002

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