Banned in the City Of Possibilities

“It is not our objective to increase the level of censorship in Singapore. Just maintaining the existing level of censorship is difficult enough.”

– Minister for Information and the Arts, George Yeo (1998) (Reuters)

Below is a list of events which were either banned or disallowed by the Singapore authorities in the last few years. We have also, as far as we could, provided the reasons and explanations which were given by the authorities.

The list is by no means a comprehensive one. We welcome any corrections, clarifications or submissions to add to the list.

We can be reached at [email protected]


Zoolander film.

The action comedy was banned for “controversial elements gathered from feedback,” Singapore‘s Board of Film Censors said in a news release, without elaborating. (link)


Sept: PELU rejects Think Centre’s application for doll display

In a letter dated 15 Sept from PELU, TC’s proposed display of dolls on a blanket was refused on grounds of “law and order considerations”. (link)

Nov: PELU rejects TWC2 application for march.

The TWC2’s application to hold a symbolic march from the Esplanade to Boat Quay to mark International Day Against Violence Against Women was rejected on “law and order considerations.” (link)


July: Formula 17 – Taiwanese film.

Singapore‘s Films Appeals Committee said yesterday panel members thought the film “creates an illusion of a homosexual utopia, where everyone, including passersby, is homosexual and no ills or problems are reflected.” “It conveys the message that homosexuality is normal, and a natural progression of society,” the panel said. (link)

PLU asked to stop.

The governments Registrar of Societies ordered the group to halt its activities and issued an official statement saying that People Like Us was likely to be used for unlawful purposes or for purposes prejudicial to public peace, welfare or good order. (link)


Jan: Singapore Rebel –

Police told international reporters that See is being investigated under the country’s Films Act, which bans “party political” films. Making or distributing such a film—which can be defined as anything containing partisan references or commentary—is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 or two years in jail.”Singapore Rebel” chronicles the civil disobedience of opposition activist Dr. Chee Soon Juan. (link)

The Board of Film Censors told festival director Philip Cheah on March 11 that the film was objectionable under the Films Act as it was deemed a “party political film,” according to a report in The Straits Times. Screening such films could carry penalties of up to two years in jail, and fines of up to S$100,000 (U.S.$60,000). Cheah was “advised” to inform See to withdraw his film “whereby the matter would be dropped, failing which, the full extent of the law would apply,” said festival director Lesley Ho in a subsequent email to See. (link)

Mar: Aids Awarebess Concert –

Based on the duo’s website and reports of their performances in the US, it is assessed that their performance will promote a gay lifestyle which would be against the public interest. (link)

June: Gay party.

Police assessment is that the event is likely to be organized as a gay party, which is contrary to public interest in general,” a police statement said, without elaborating. (link)

July 2005 : The Singapore Government denies Mr Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan entry into Singapore and deports him. Mr Yeshua, a democracy activist and a member of NGO Nonviolence International, had been travelling here to conduct a non-violence workshop for Singaporean activists.

“As in other countries, entry into Singapore is a privilege, not a right. Mr Yeshua was denied entry into Singapore under Section 25(2) of the Immigration Act… when a foreign visitor like Mr Yeshua, whatever his motivation, organizes a workshop to promote a brand of political activism that undermines the rule of law in Singapore, he outstays his welcome. Leading a workshop which encourages attendees to break, even if non-violently, any law they disapprove, is unwelcomed interference in Singapore‘s domestic politics.” – Ministry of Foreign Affairs (link)

August 2005: 12 anti-riot police officers armed with shields and batons put an end to a tiny demonstration held by 4 peaceful people standing quietly in a row wearing T-shirts asking for more transparency from, amongst other institutions, the NKF.

They were investigated for:

i. Participating in an Assembly without a Permit under Rule 5 of the Miscellaneous Offences Act (Public Order & Nuisance) (Assemblies & Procession) Rule, Chapter 184.

ii. Public Nuisance under Sec 290 of the Penal Code, Chapter 224.

Sept: Buangkok residents put up cardboard cutouts of white elephants in front of the Buangkok MRT station to protest against its non-opening. The authorities immediately launch police investigations to find out who did it.

The Police received a 999 call complaining about the presence of the white elephants placards along the road divider outside Buangkok MRT station. When a complaint or report is received or lodged, Police will have to look into the matter to determine whether any offence has been committed. As we have stated earlier, Police are presently investigating the matter under the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act. – Singapore Police Force press statement. (link)

Oct: Blogger-academic Cherian George writes an article about the government’s use of “calibrated coercion” to stifle the expression of dissenting opinions. The Prime Minister’s Office immediately slams Cherian for his dissenting opinion.

Oct: MDA bans gay website and fines another one.

The two sites violated ‘Part 4’ of the Code, which includes depictions of ‘nudity or genitalia in a manner calculated to titillate’, and material advocating homosexuality or paedophilia. (link)

Nov: Military blogs.

Singapore has barred servicemen from posting unauthorised accounts and pictures of military life on the internet… Defence ministry spokesman Benedict Lim was quoted by the newspaper as saying that “we encourage our servicemen to share their experiences” to boost camaraderie but “we have to be mindful of the need for information security. (link)

Nov: Film clip shown at book launch

Dr Chee and Mr Yap are also being investigated for “Possession of a Film Without a Valid Certificate under Sec 21(1)(a) of the Films Act, Chapter 107.” This is in reference to a clip about the 500,000-strong protest that took place in Hong Kong in July 2003 that Dr Chee had with him when he launched The Power of Courage on 9 Jul 05 at the Grand Plaza Parkroyal Hotel. (link)

Dec: Government bans stage play on death penalty, censors artwork –

The government’s Media Development Authority (MDA) demanded Human Lefts, a play about the hanging of Singaporean drug courier Shanmugam Murugesu in May, make no mention of the death penalty and no reference to any political leader, the play’s director was quoted as saying. (link)


Jan: White Elephant t-shirts .

The police warned the students that if they wore the T-shirts “en masse, it might be misconstrued by some as an offence” since Singapore bans protest demonstrations. (link)

March : Feeling Good Party at the Ministry Of Sound.

According to Mr. Clement Lee, executive director of Ministry of Sound’s parent company LifeBrandz, Mr Kelvin Yeo, Compliance Management Officer from Tanglin Police called on Friday evening after office hours demanding that the club cancel the event, failing which enforcement officers would come to the club on Sunday to shut the party down. The reason given by the police to Mr. Lee over the telephone was that the party would “promote gay activities. (link)

Elections podcasting.

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts Dr Balaji said: “There are also some well-known local blogs run by private individuals who have ventured into podcasting. The content of some of these podcasts can be quite entertaining. However, the streaming of explicit political content by individuals during the election period is prohibited under the Election Advertising Regulations. A similar prohibition would apply to the videocasting or video streaming of explicitly political content.” … Dr Balaji added that individual bloggers can discuss politics, but have to register with the Media Development Agency if they persistently promote political views. (link)

When registered, they’re then not allowed to advertise during elections – something only political parties, candidates and election agents are allowed to do only.

July: MICA criticizes Mr Brown.

mr brown’s views on all these issues distort the truth. They are polemics dressed up as analysis, blaming the Government for all that he is unhappy with. He offers no alternatives or solutions. His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency… It is not the role of journalists or newspapers in Singapore to champion issues, or campaign for or against the Government. If a columnist presents himself as a non-political observer, while exploiting his access to the mass media to undermine the Government’s standing with the electorate, then he is no longer a constructive critic, but a partisan player in politics. – MICA Press Secretary (link)

Aug: Smegma Play.

Smegma undermines the values underpinning Singapore’s multiracial, multi­religious society. The play portrays Muslims in a negative light,” “It said the play by playwright P. Elangovan was “insensitive and inappropriate for staging. (link)

Sept: NGO delegates for WB/IMF Meeting.

Violent protesters at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Singapore could face caning and imprisonment, a minister said yesterday… Wong Kan Seng, the home affairs minister and deputy prime minister, said Singapore reserved the right to vet further the accredited group to determine “the potential impact on law and order as well as the suitability of the proposed [rally] location” before a police permit would be issued. Violent protesters would face the threat of caning and imprisonment, as prescribed under Singapore law, he said. – Financial Times. (link)

There is a need to prevent activities which can undermine the robust security arrangements in place for the IMF/WB Meetings, or disrupt our compact, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. The Police will respond to public order and security situations fairly and firmly. – Singapore Police Force (link)

Sept: Singapore deports PETA activists.

Singapore police said in a statement they deployed officers to find and interview the activists on Thursday and Friday in response to calls reporting that the trio had been “behaving suspiciously.” The statement did not give details of what the activists were doing nor identify the callers.

“Based on their profile and records, police assessed that they would be participating in an anti-KFC campaign as PETA activists and will speak without a permit,” the police statement said late Friday.

Police said the three were asked to leave the city-state by Friday, and that Singapore‘s immigration authorities had canceled their social visit passes. (link)

Sept: FEER.

It is a privilege and not a right for foreign newspapers to circulate in Singapore. If any foreign newspaper fails to comply with the law … they cannot expect to enjoy this privilege,” the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts said Thursday. (link)

Sept: Chee Soon Juan at Speakers’ Corner.

The Police will be investigating the incident. The Police are appreciative that their advisory has been observed and that the public did not participate in the protest march. In fact, the Police received feedback from the public about nuisance and disruption to traffic arising from the incident. – Singapore Police Force (link)

Dec: Tsunami Charity Book.

MDA will continue to work with the industry to provide choice to consumers while ensuring that the content available is within the acceptable norms of society. (link)


Feb: Madonna’s Confessions DVD.

We were asked to remove the cross scene in the video”, Mr Simon Nasser, Warner Singapore’s marketing manager. (link)

April: Zaid Zahari.

Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts said “the documentary was an attempt by Said “to exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist united front activities against the interests of Singapore”.

The government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the government,” the ministry said, adding that this may “undermine public confidence in the government. (link) (link)

April: EU MPs in Singapore .

Singapore’s politics are reserved for Singaporeans. As visitors to our country, foreigners should not abuse their privilege by interfering in our domestic politics, the statement said.
Foreigners who abuse the privileges that
Singapore accords to guests and visitors, and meddle in Singapore’s domestic politics, are not welcome here, it said. (link) (link)

June: Alfian Saat’s termination from MOE –

In his reply, Rear-Admiral (NS) Lui declined to broach the details of Mr Alfian’s application, saying it was not the appropriate place to do so: ‘It is not appropriate to discuss individual cases of teachers or relief teachers in this House.’ (link)

June: Birthday celebrations for Aung San Suu Kyi held by Burmese nationals in Singapore

Just before the birthday celebrations for Aung San Suu Kyi in June this year,” Wunna recalled, “the intelligence officer contacted one of the organizers with detailed questions about the agenda, what kinds of documents they were going to distribute, and so on…. In 2006, our lorry had a big poster, four feet x six ft, of Aung San Suu Kyi on it. But this year, the police contacted us and told us not to put up her picture. (link)

July: Douglas Sanders.

Our laws are an expression and reflection of the values of our society; the discourse over a domestic issue such as the laws that govern homosexuality in Singapore must be reserved for Singaporeans … foreigners should refrain from interfering,” the Home Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

It’s not that foreigners cannot make their comments or views known on Singapore policies. No, in fact they all do! But it’s quite different if local activists, in the context of a situation in Singapore where we know that there’s an ongoing debate for some time already on a topic which is divisive, a topic which has caused two sides in particular to expound different points of views, whether we want to invite a foreigner to come here to speak to a Singapore audience. (link) (link) (link)

August: Photo exhibition.

Presently, homosexual content is allowed in the appropriate context but it should not be of a promotional or exploitative nature. The proposed exhibition … which focuses mainly on homosexual kissing is deemed to promote a homosexual lifestyle, and cannot be allowed. (link) (link)

August: Myanmese nationals in Orchard Road.

Police are currently investigating into the incident. A total of 23 subjects are now assisting Police in investigations, including three who are believed to have initiated the series of SMS messages…. Police would like to remind the public that they should not participate in an assembly or procession that does not have a permit as it is an offence to do so. (link) (Read also: )

August: Ng Yi Sheng story telling.

Ng’s text was disallowed as it had gone beyond good taste and decency in taking a disparaging and disrespectful view of public officers. (link)

August: Police rejects permit for WP cycling event:

Apart from displacing the usual recreational users of East Coast Park, it is an open area where there is greater potential for a breach of the peace, public disorder and unruly behaviour.

You may be well behaving, but there may be other people whom you come across when you cycle who may stop you, may want to debate with you and that may attract a crowd, therefore will result in problems the police want to avoid. – Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee (link) (link)

August: Pink Picnic .

As the events are advertised, they are considered organised gatherings… We have considered the matter carefully, and regret to inform you that the Board cannot allow you to hold your events at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Singapore Botanic Gardens is a premier botanical institution. We do not want it to be used as a venue for interest groups to politicise their cause. For that matter, it is our policy to keep such activities out of our parks and gardens. – National Parks Board (link)

August: Pink Run.

(Police officer) Kelvin Yeo informed Ethan that the run would be considered an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences Act. (link)

August: Odex Protest.

There were four Riot Buses, otherwise known as Ang Chia (Red Bus) in colloquial term. The Singapore Police Force had deployed the Special Operations Command en scene. They’re the heavy duty enforcers of public order. The Riot Buses were an intimidating sight. It begs me to wonder if Singapore is really a Forbidden City. However, I didn’t see any of their body armoured, MP-5 armed patrols moving around. – Blogger involved in the protest (link)

Sept: Burma protests in Singapore.

Police would like to remind the public that they should not participate in an assembly or procession that does not have a permit as it is an offence. (link) (link)

Oct: Student Andrew Teo’s application for outdoor protest against Burmese junta denied.

He said the police explained to him that he could be in trouble if someone threw a stone at the riot police or burned a flag at a rally. And if the protest was held in front of the Myanmar embassy and someone threw objects at it, then the embassy could demand that police take action against him. – (link)

Oct – Petition signing at Burmese embassy.

“We advise you to leave; we are investigating this case.” – Singapore Police to would-be visitors to the site. (link)

Oct: SDP protest march application rejected.

No reasons were given by the police. (link)

Oct : Outdoor vigils not allowed in universities.

Appeals were made to hold outdoor vigils as part of the Myanmar Peace Awareness Day at both the Kent Ridge and Bukit Timah campuses. The proposal was rejected, as it is not in keeping with the university culture and may not serve an academic purpose, a Burmese organizer in Kent Ridge campus told The Ridge…. When SMU participants moved down to the first floor for the candlelight segment, they noticed two plainly clothed men digitally recording their activities. – The Ridge Online (link)

At mid-afternoon, the police contacted the Dean of Students telling him that unless we had a permit, the Peace Vigil would be an illegal assembly,” said Mark Myo, one of the organizers. – Asia Times Online (link)

Oct : Outdoor Peace Concert for Burma.

Political and cause-related events are assessed to have a higher potential to stir emotions and controversy… An outdoor concert may lead to law and order concerns. (link) (link)

Also, visit Singabloodypore’s listing.

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