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Breaking News: Death penalty book banned by MDA

“Once A Jolly Hangman – Singapore Justice In The Dock” has been “banned” in Singapore, The Online Citizen (TOC) has learned.

The book by renowned investigative journalist, Alan Shadrake, delves into and exposes the lesser-known aspects of Singapore’s criminal justice system. The book focuses on death penalty cases in Singapore – and it gives readers a more intimate look into some of the high profile cases, especially those of recent years.

Spanning three years of work by the author and journalist, the book includes information from his 2005 interview with Singapore’s hangman, Darshan Singh. That interview was published in Australian newspapers and caused an outrage around the world, in particular Australia at that time. That was when the case of Australian-Vietnamese Nguyen Van Tuong was in the headlines. Van Tuong had been sentenced to hang in S’pore for trafficking drugs into the country.

The book, with its meticulous research by Shadrake, includes rare interviews with Central Narcotics Bureau officers, lawyers, activists, and information gleaned from archives, court documents and news reports. It pieces together each of the story by filling in the blanks which are left out by news reports and throws up serious questions about Singapore’s criminal justice system itself.

Undoubtedly, the book will ruffle some feathers – as it apparently has.

Once A Jolly Hangman had been on sale at Kinokuniya bookstore for “several weeks”, TOC has learned, before the bookstore was asked by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to remove it from the shelves “a few days ago.”

Kino has also confirmed that the book is now “banned” by the MDA. No reason was given to the bookstore for the ban but Kino expects to receive “written” confirmation from the MDA soon.

Last month, the book was successfully launched in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.  (See here.)

Shadrake’s  first major book The Yellow Pimpernels told the escape stories across the Berlin Wall and was the subject of a BBC documentary. Subsequent publications have delved into a variety of subjects including an expose of life in a Soviet gulag, the story of the boy poisoner Graham Young and, with Linda Lee, The Life and Tragic Death of Bruce Lee. (Gerakbudaya.)

PS: TOC is trying to get confirmation from MDA that the book has indeed been banned.