SINGAPOREANS DISAPPOINTED WITH AGC OVER DECISION TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST ALEX AU

We are deeply concerned that the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) has been granted leave to take action against Singaporean blogger, Mr Alex Au, for “scandalising the judiciary” in his blog post, “377 Wheels Come Off Supreme Court's Best Laid Plans”.1

The right of free expression is enshrined in Article 14 of our Constitution.  We believe that robust public debate is necessary for national progress.  The AGC’s action, however, reflects an overzealous desire to police public opinion.  This cannot be healthy for a mature, first world nation.  If Mr Au had erred, then his claims should be rebutted in public. This would enable Singaporeans to make up their own minds.

We agree that it is important to uphold public confidence in the judiciary.  However, this cannot mean that our judges should not be subject to scrutiny.  The AGC’s action, rather than enhancing confidence in the judiciary, might weaken public confidence.  It also implies that the public is not allowed to form opinions on judicial processes.

International legal opinion supports the advancement of the law in respect of public comment. In 2012, the UK Law Commission recommended abolishing the offence of “scandalising the judiciary” because it is “an infringement of freedom of expression and out of step with social attitudes”.  The Commission noted that the offence “belongs to an era when deferential respect to the judiciary was the norm.  But social attitudes have changed.  Enforcing the offence today would do little to reinforce respect for the judiciary and, if judges are thought to be using it to protect their own, could strengthen any existing distrust or disrespect.”2

We note that the AGC action against Mr Au is not in keeping with the spirit of Singapore's position at the 2011 UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights that “Political postings on the Internet are prevalent, including many that are highly critical of the Government.  No blogger or other online publisher has been prosecuted for such postings.”3 Further, this AGC action contradicts Singapore’s obligations in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, adopted on 18 November 2012. Article 23 states, “Every person has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, including freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information, whether orally, in writing or through any other medium of that person’schoice.”4

We call upon the AGC to help the Government of Singapore uphold its ideals and its international commitments, for the continued progress and prosperity of our nation.

Signed:-

Simeon Ang
K Z Arifa
Jacqui Ch
Sharmeen Nina Chabra
Xin Hui Supanee Chan
Qizhong Chang
Kenneth Chee Mun Leon 
Jeremy Chen
Chew Kheng Chuan
Leslie Chew
Tania Chew
Joshua Chiang
Brendan Chong
Bryan Choong
Jean Chong
Chong Kai Xiong
Chong Wai Fung
Chua Chuen-Seah
Lucy Davis
Fazlur Yusuf
Fong Hoe Fang
Assoc Professor Cherian George
Jessica Goh
Johannes Hadi
Han Hui Hui
Kirsten Han
Helmi Yusuf
Ivan Heng
Dr Russell Heng
Adrian Heok
Irene Ho
Sam Ho
Vanessa Ho
Isrizal Mohamed Isa
Kenneth Jeyaretnam
Kwan Jin
Shawn Kathiravan
Dr Khoo Hoon Eng
Koh Boon Luang
Dan Koh
Patrick Koh
Joses Kuan
Annie Kwan
Ken Kwek
Dana Lam
Vincent Law
David Lee
Lee Gwo Yinn
Howard Lee
Kevin Lee
Lynn Lee
Richard Lee
Lee Shiuh Meng Kevin
Philip Selwyn Lemos
Tricia Leong
Leow Zi Xiang
Dr Liew Kai Khiun
Angie Lim
Gary Lim Meng Suang
Lim Jialiang
Lim Kay Siu
Lynette Lim
Michelle Lim
Nicholas Lim Yew
Andrew Loh
Loh Chee Leong
Dr Loh Kah Seng
Andee Loo
Braema Mathi
Marayd McElroy
Haron Mong
Neo Swee Lim
Ng Mei Fay
Ng Yisheng
Roy Ngerng
Dr Noor Rahman
Brian Nugawela
Irene Oh
Kay Omar
Ong En Hui
Yanchun Ong
Stephan Ortmann
Pak Geok Choo
Vivian Pan
Engsien Pek
Ravi Philemon
Francisco Raquiza
Indulekshmi Rajeswari
Gene Sha Rudyn
Alfian Sa'at
Mansura Sajahan
Nora Samosir
Katerina Sandiman
Seet Cheng Yew Michael
Ariffin Sha
Rev Miak Siew
Siew Kum Hong
Frederique Soh
John Solomon
Dickson Su
Osman Suleiman
Prof Paul Ananth Tambyah
Alvin Tan
Alvin Tan Cheong Kheng
Bian Tan
Caryn Tan Sun
Eugene Tan Siah Yew
Joe Tan
Joel Bertrand Tan
Jolene Tan
John L Tan
Tan Joo Hymn
Kenneth Tan
Kirsten Tan
Netina Tan
Dr Roy Tan
Serena Tan
Sylvia Tan
Estee Tay
Jennifer Teo
Teo Soh Lung
Assoc Prof Tey Tsun Hang
Callan Tham
Thaw Win
Melissa Tsang
Kelly Then
Shelley Thio
Ivan Thomasz
Dr Pingtjin Thum
Jeremy Tiang
Dawn Toh
Toh Boon Hwee
Jason Wee
Lawrence Wee
Jolovan Wham
Dr Vincent Wijeysingha
Andy Wong
Brenton Wong
Wong Chee Keng
Dexter Wong
Joe Wong
Melissa W S Wong
Wong Tong Kwong
Teresa Woo
Dr Woon Tien Wei
Terry Xu
Benjamin Xue
Julius Yang
Dezmond Yeo
Yeo Yeu Yong
Antoinette Yzelman
Rachel Zeng
Zeng Ziting
Zulkarnain Hassan
Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao
Kathy Teo
Gerald Heng
Stephen Koh
Foo Hui Shien, Catherine
Ronald Koh
Shawn Tan
Dr Charan Bal
Low Yit Leng
Jeffrey George
Jocelyn Teo
Chia Vincent
Lisa Li
Kok Heng Leun
Damien Chng
Priscilla Chia
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Reference links

[1]http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/377-wheels-come-off-supreme-courts-best-laid-plans/.

2http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/news/2140.htm.The full report is available athttp://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/docs/lc335_scandalising_the_court.pdf. The offence has since been abolished in theUK.

3http://www.mfa.gov.sg/content/dam/mfa/images/media_center/special_events/upr/UPR%20National%20Report_Singapore.pdf.

4http://www.asean.org/news/asean-statement-communiques/item/asean-human-rights-declaration.

 

*Article first appeared on https://www.facebook.com/notes/thio-shelley/statement-on-agc-action-against-alex-au/10151899870214565