American: In America we have freedom of speech.
Russian: In Russia, we also have freedom of speech.
American: In America, we have freedom even after the speech.
The first foray came from Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), unleashing a dastardly duo from their stable of attack dogs to cast calumny over a fair damsel's Facebook post. Adrian Tay (Editor, AsiaOne) and Chua Chim Kang (Chief Editor, Lianhe Wanbao) must be shooting for another of those SPH self-congratulating awards, “Gutter Journalism at its Finest”. Tay and Chua mastered the strategy well, destroy first, apologise later. Just you try asking if Yaacob Ibrahim's wife and two kids are currently in possession of American passports.
Then we hear the Media Development Authority (MDA) has called in suppressing fire on a fledgling website, demanding it to “register” by Dec 10. Unlike Yahoo and 9 other news sites who had to obtain a "license" and plunk down a $50,000 deposit, MDA says this requirement is "just a declaration” to confirm there will be no receipt of foreign funding. Putting on their best poker face, MDA insists the registration was an “interim measure”, the real hard act to follow will be the forthcoming review of the Broadcasting Act.
Next, heavy artillery was lobbed from the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC). On Wednesday, the High Court gave AGC permission to summon a blogger to court for alleged contempt in one of his postings in October. The AGC action may just torpedo Singapore’s commitment to the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, adopted on 18 November 2012. Article 23 clearly states,
“Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’s choice."
Watcha gonna do? Sue the AGC?
Meanwhile, the Australian writer who "took a leave of licence and liberty in mentioning Singapore in rather tenuous circumstances" was spared official sanction. Minister for Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam says the Republic does not come out "to confirm or deny" any (foreign) reports on allegations that the Republic was helping Western nations to spy on its neighbours, namely the Malaysians and Indonesians. Mr Shanmugam said: "The point is -- the Indonesians and Malaysians know we won't do anything to harm their interests"; the big guns are always pointing at our own citizens. Still, their ambassadors had to have their pound of flesh, both hauled in the Singapore representative for a proper dressing down. Depending on the changing winds of politics, the roaring lion sure knows when to play the meek mouse.