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Reporters Without Borders today called for the immediate release of British freelance journalist Alan Shadrake, author of a book about the death penalty in Singapore, who has been held by the police Criminal Investigation Department since early yesterday morning.
Shadrake, author of Once a Jolly Hangman-Singapore Justice in the Dock, is investigated for “criminal defamation” and “contempt of court”.
“To hold the 75-year-old author of an investigative book who is in fragile health for nearly two days and at a secret location, is shocking and totally disproportionate”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“We urge the interior minister and deputy prime minister Kan Seng Wong to order the immediate release of Alan Shadrake and the dropping of charges against him. The death penalty should be freely debated and by whomsoever in Singapore as anywhere else. Alan Shadrake has no business being in a police cell”, the organisation added.
Police spokesman, Sew Wei Ler, refused to reveal his place of detention to Reporters Without Borders. “The law allows us to hold him for 48 hours, but I cannot tell you if he will be released before then”, he said. The journalist, who was arrested at his hotel, had attended a private event to promote the book the previous day.
His lawyer, Mr Ravi, said that police had not given him any news about his client’s situation despite the fact that he put in a formal request for such information. “The police have not even found time to call me back”, he said. “It is an extremely harsh position to adopt in relation to my right to access to my client”, he added. Shadrake faces up to two years in prison.
The book, which was published in Malaysia, includes interviews with a former chief executioner, lawyers and police officers. The authorities claim that Shadrake contested the impartiality of Singapore’s justice system, as well as the independence of some judges. As a result he also faces charges for alleged contempt of court. The prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case when Reporters Without Borders got in touch by telephone.
Shadrake’s arrest came after a complaint was laid by the Media Development Authority on 16 July.
Several Singapore citizens have confirmed that it is almost impossible to find the work in bookshops, even though it has not been officially banned. A government representative told the BBC that the government has the right to advise book shops not to stock it.
Elsewhere, the documentary-maker Martyn See told Reporters Without Borders that he had been obliged to delete from YouTube.com his film about former political prisoner, Lim Hock Siew. He received a letter from an official at the Media Development Authority threatening him with proceedings under Article 35 of the Films Act if he did not pull the documentary from YouTube and his personal website before 14 July 2010. “Two of my films are now banned”, said See.
The film deemed to be contrary to the “public interest” was posted online by other Internet users.
Singapore is ranked 133 out of 175 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2009 world press freedom index.