Blogger Alex Au was fined $8,000 today, 5 March for contempt of court over an article he wrote on his blog in October 2013. Mr Au’s article had allegedly implied that the Chief Justice showed partiality towards two constitutional challenges against Section 377A, the law which criminalises sex between men.
Mr Au, 62, insisted that his article made no such references, and said he would be appealing against the decision by Justice Belinda Ang. Meanwhile, he will pay the fine first.
The Attorney-General’s Chambers had initially asked for a fine of at least $10,000.
The AGC has earlier charged him for contempt for two articles. The other article, “Church sacks employee and sues government” made reference to a man who was allegedly harassed by his employer for his homosexuality, was cleared of contempt charges.
In that article, Mr Au had wrote that he did not have high hopes for the case as his confidence in the judiciary was “as limp as a flag on a windless day”.
However, Justice Ang had decided that only first article, “377 wheels come off Supreme Court’s best laid plans”, was in contempt as it unfairly suggested that the Chief Justice had acted impartially, which she ruled risked undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore.
International advocacy group Human Rights Watch has earlier said that Mr Au’s conviction violates free speech and “merely highlight the injustice of Singapore’s archaic crime of ‘scandalizing the judiciary”.
“Singapore’s courts, like any other public institution, are strengthened, not weakened, by open debate on issues of general concern,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The prosecution of Alex Au for speaking out is just one more example of Singapore’s willingness to misuse law to gag its critics.”