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ICJ: End harassment of bloggers in Singapore

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has just issued a statement on the investigation launched upon two individuals (Roy Ngerng and Teo Soh Lung) and a social political blog, The Independent Singapore (TISG) in relation to alleged violations of the Parliamentary Election Act.

Full statement by ICJ below

The ICJ is alarmed by the intimidation and harassment experienced by bloggers in Singapore recently, perpetrated by police authorities.

In the last few days, the homes of four bloggers were raided and their phones and laptops confiscated, without the legal process or justification required by international standards.

The ICJ strongly urges the Government of Singapore to stop this harassment and ensure that bloggers are protected against such unjustified interference with or reprisals for the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

“By resorting to this kind of harassment and intimidation of bloggers, Singapore is showing complete disregard for human rights and the rule of law,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

“The Government of Singapore must stop intimidating citizens who express their political opinions openly. The actions taken by the Singaporean police against the four bloggers do not only constitute an attack on freedom of opinion and expression in the country, but also clearly violates their right to privacy,” he added.

On 27 May 2016, the Election Department of Singapore filed police reports alleging that bloggers Roy Ngerng and Teo Soh Lung, and The Independent Singapore, an independent news website, violated the rules against election advertising ahead of polling day.

Under Singapore’s election rules, campaigning is prohibited 24-hours prior to polling day, which is called the “Cooling-Off Day”.

Roy Ngerng and Teo Soh Lung were alleged to have written posts on their social media accounts expressing support for the opposition candidate, Mr. Chee Soon Juan.

The Independent Singapore, on the other hand, was alleged to have published articles that amount to election advertising.

The ICJ considers that provisions or interpretations of Singapore’s election laws that would impose a sweeping ban on all political expression in relation to particular candidates in a 24-hour period prior to polling day, including the expression of opinions by private individuals without remuneration, cannot constitute a demonstrably justified and proportionate restriction on freedom of opinion and expression under international standards.

Early this year, the delegation representing the Government of Singapore said as it went through the 2nd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review that “no one in Singapore is prosecuted for criticizing the government or its policies.”

The delegation emphasized that Singapore’s Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression.

The Government of Singapore also accepted recommendations made by other States at the Universal Periodic Review to “ensure the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression”.

It also accepted the recommendation to protect bloggers from persecution and harassment for the exercise of their human rights.

The ICJ urges the Government of Singapore to remain true to the commitments it made during the recent Universal Periodic Review and respect the right to freedom of expression of bloggers.