Monday, December 8, 2008

Singapore is hostile to free speech

Fred Hiatt, Editorial Page Editor for The Washington Post has a disturbing op-ed today (on p A19) about Singapore, the utopian city-state in Southeast Asia. It’s called “A Public Enemy in Singapore”, link here.

The story is about one Chee Soon Juan, prosecuted and jailed a few times for speaking in public without a permit and selling books in public without permission. He’s actually been jailed for trying to leave Singapore. I guess if had published “Do Ask Do Tell” and developed and deployed these websites and blogs in Singapore the same thing would have happened to me.

He’s also been sued for “defamation” by leader Lee Kuan Yew and son Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, for comparing the government to a charity ridden by scandal. Imagine being sued by the president of the United States or the prime minister of a European country, or by the Queen of England.

The government’s contention is that a small state has to demand conformity to retain social stability. Rather than like an aircraft carrier, it’s like a row boat at sea, where everyone must stroke in unison.

There’s no question that authoritarianism can sometimes promote stability. Singapore in some ways is a Utopian state, almost out of science fiction and on another planet, and people there perceive the unfolding of their lives differently than we do.

High school civics and government teachers should present this editorial in comparison to American First Amendment ideals.

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