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HRW: Singapore violating freedom of speech rights

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] stated Friday that the Singapore government's new licensing requirements [text, PDF] for news sources impinges on free speech [press release]. By placing a registration fee on sources that meet threshold levels of Internet traffic [MDA fact sheet], HRW believes the government will have an undue level of power in deciding who can publish what. Their report further asserted that the government's stringent restrictions on dissent will give it cause to refuse licenses to those high-traffic organizations that do not conform to its limitations on published material. Despite the government's public stance [Facebook page] that each case will be evaluated on its individual merits, HRW posed concerns that these requirements violate the Singapore constitution and Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 19) [text, PDF] in a manner consistent with previous concerns [official report, PDF] posed by the UN Special Reporter on Human Rights [official website] regarding Internet censorship.

Freedom of speech [JURIST news archive] has been an international concern in recent months. Amnesty International [advocacy website] and HRW in April criticized Russia [JURIST report] for limiting freedom of speech since Vladimir Putin [BBC profile] returned to the presidency. Such laws are similar to those that are raising suspicion in Singapore, although freedom of speech is not the only human rights concern there. Last month, Singapore also outlawed same-sex intercourse [JURIST report]. The High Court of Singapore [official website] upheld [judgment, PDF] a law [text] banning intercourse between men as an "outrage on decency." Section 337A outlaws intercourse between men in both public and private settings, and imposes punishments of up to two years in prison. While the provision has not been enforced actively by Singapore authorities, same-sex couples in Singapore seek to have the law overturned so they are not identified as a criminal class.

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