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HRW: Select Committee’s actions clearly an effort to discredit critics of Singapore’s repressive policies and practices related to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly

Statement issued by Human Rights Watch, an international human rights non-government organisation, on Select Committee's message on 27 March

"When first contacted by the parliamentary committee, we offered to rearrange our schedule to have the relevant staff member appear in person, but the committee did not respond with a workable date until it was too late to do so. The committee’s actions since, however, have made it clear that this is not a serious and good faith effort to discuss the findings of our December 2017 report or to get our input into dealing with online falsehoods in a manner consistent with international law.

Instead, it is clearly an effort to discredit critics of Singapore’s repressive policies and practices related to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. It is hard to see how we can have a fruitful discussion of the report and related issues when committee members and the Ministry of Law have already issued distorted and misleading comments. We have therefore reluctantly come to the conclusion that these hearings are not a true consultation on how best to deal with “fake news,” but a media event aimed to showcase those who agree with the government’s views and criticize those who do not.

We repeat our request that the government respond to our October 2017 letters to the Prime Minister and other ministers requesting comments on our research findings.

If the committee or government has any questions about our report, they should raise them with us directly in writing. If the committee or government genuinely wants our input on the proposed “fake news” law, they should make the draft available to us a reasonable time – such as two weeks – before it is tabled in parliament. Human Rights Watch would then be pleased to share our comments on the draft based on international human rights standards."


HRW also published an earlier response towards criticism made against its 133-page report, “‘Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys’: Suppression of Free Expression and Assembly in Singapore, published in 2017 and its "failure" to turn up at the Select Committee's hearing to defend its report.

The Office of the Clerk of Parliament's re-invitation to HRW which was sent on 27 March 2018:

“We refer to our previous invitations for HRW to come and give oral evidence to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods, including evidence on your report “Kill the Chicken to Scare the Monkeys” – Suppression of Free Expression and Assembly in Singapore. As the Chairman of the Select Committee announced on 23 March 2018, the Select Committee’s invitation for HRW to give evidence remains open.

We note HRW’s statement of 27 March, which suggests that HRW is now prepared to participate, and come forward to give evidence in the hearings. Please confirm if this is the case. If so, please let us know when you would be prepared to attend (either in person, or through video conference). As has been announced, Parliament will be prorogued in April. We can hear you on any date in May, or after May, after Parliament reopens. Please let us know your position by 29 March, 12 noon.”