Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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Do our existing laws reflect the values of our society or are they a reflection of the government’s concerns?

I would think most Singaporeans would agree with me that laws are in place to ensure that everyone is clear on what the boundaries of accepted behaviour in society is. In other words, laws are enacted to reflect the values of society. Given that social mores change over time, it is also safe to say that the law is never static. With that in mind, I can accept changes that reflect changes in societal values. The recently published “Fake News Bill” and now the reports that have stated that a Peeping Tom that has been caught out in the National University of Singapore (NUS) has avoided prosecution has led me to wonder if our existing laws do indeed reflect the values of our society.

Both the “Fake News Bill” and the Peeping Tom that has seemingly avoided punishment has generated outrage. On the one hand, we have a bill that could see people punished for being the deemed purveyor of “Fake News” while a Peeping Tom who has caused actual and definable harm has appeared to escape punishment. Are these the values of our society?

The government is very concerned with controlling “Fake News” even though it is in every sense of the word, a “nameless” crime. Not only is the bill arbitrary in terms of deeming those guilty, it also punishes without needing actual harm to be proven. In other words, there is no need for authorities to prove actual damage to any individual. It is enough that such alleged “Fake News” could potentially cause disrepute to a particular entity. What we have is a lot of care and attention being dedicated to perceived unquantifiable damage to people already in power while an individual whose privacy while taking a shower has been grossly invaded sees the proven perpetrator unpunished in a court of law. Perhaps it is just me, but this is a state of affairs that sits most uncomfortably.

Is our government seemingly prioritising the protection of itself over the well being of an individual? Are our resources being appropriately allocated? How can it be that so much energy is poured into a law that appears to protect institutions over individuals while individuals who are actually proven to have been harmed see no justice or protection?

Laws are meant to be enacted to protect people and ensure that a society is safe for all. Contrasting the “Fake News Bill” with how a Peeping Tom has seemingly escaped justice, this objective is clearly not met. Surely it cannot be our collective values that the individual is not protected while the authorities are?

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