Reporters Without Borders today accused the Singaporean government of placing increasing curbs on online free expression after the electoral authorities ordered the opposition Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) to withdraw a podcast from its website on Wednesday, 10 days before parliamentary elections.
“A new form of protest on the Internet and in blogs is emerging in Singapore,” the press freedom organisation said. “Internet users aware of the latest technologies are daring to say things online which one has never been able to read in the local newspapers. Podcasts are the only way to hear the speeches of opposition leaders, who have few opportunities to speak publicly. We support the Internet users and bloggers fighting for free expression in Singapore.”
The speech by SDP leader Chee Soon Juan can still be downloaded from the party’s site at http://www.sgdemocrat.org/radioSDP/GE2006_PC1.mp3, while a transcript is available at this blog : http://www.singabloodypore.blogspot.com/. In it, Chee accuses Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the government of sabotaging his election campaign and trying to undermine his party by denying it the means to communicate with its supporters.
Chee says he is constantly being followed, watched and threatened by the police and has not been allowed to make any public speeches. The SDP lawyer claims that the podcast ban is unconstitutional, even during an election campaign.
At the start of this month, Reporters Without Borders condemned the new Internet regulations that have just been adopted by the government. They force websites that openly espouse a political position to register with the Media Development Authority. During an election campaign, even registered sites must now refrain from posting any political comments. The government says this is necessary in order to have a “responsible” election campaign.
As the traditional media are unfailing in their support for the People’s Action Party, which has ruled the city-state since independence in 1959, the Internet offers the only space where a real democratic debate could be held.