Friday, January 27, 2006
  This is not a protest blog
AOL was wrong. The Internet is not a place where freedom of speech truly exists. In some oppressive countries, blogging may be banned altogether. But on the tiny island of Singapore, suppression of speech comes in the most rediculous and anti-democratic form... for a so-called democratic nation. You cannot help but notice the strings attached to every new freedom that the government occassionally treats its people to. With the looming general elections, the short-term future most definitely has the potential to get interesting. As pointed out by popular sociopolitical commenter, Alex Au, the law with regards to the Internet is still rather murky and opportunity stands for those wish to exercise their civil rights. I for one, intend to exercise mine.
Alex, as usual, provides great insight into the facts of the subject:

('Blogging during elections' by Yawning Bread)

No election advertising

Section 78A of the Parliamentary Elections Act says,

78A.—(1) The Minister may make regulations —

(b) regulating election advertising and the publication thereof during an election period on what is commonly known as the
Internet by political parties, candidates or their election agents and relevant persons, including prescribing the features
that must or must not appear or be used in any such election advertising.

(2) Any person who contravenes any regulations made under subsection (1)(b) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $1,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

The bold italics have been put in by me, since these terms will be
explained below. These explanations are based on the definitions contained within the same Act.

Election advertising:
This is a very broad term to mean any material that can reasonably be
regarded as intended "to promote or procure the electoral success ... for one or more identifiable political parties, candidates or groups of candidates", or may "enhance the standing of any such political parties, candidates or groups of candidates with the electorate in connection with any election." This seems to suggest that even praise for a candidate's wit, eloquence or sartorial flair would fall within the meaning of this term, let alone more substantial discussion that makes a party or candidate look appealing and vote-worthy.

Election period:
This is the period beginning with the day the writ of election is issued by the President for an election and ending with the close of all polling stations on polling day.
Relevant persons:
In the Act, the definition is very wordy, but basically it means every person or group of persons (other than political parties, candidates and election agents) who publishes anything on the internet.

As I've mentioned above, Section 78A devolves the
details to the Regulations. So now, let's take a look at what the Regulations say.

6. For the purposes of section 78A (1)(b) of the Act, no election
advertising may be published or caused to be published on what is commonly known as the Internet during the election period by or on behalf of any relevant person.

-- Parliamentary Elections Act (Chapter 218, Sections 78, 78A
and 102) Parliamentary Elections (Election Advertising) Regulations

That's it! And since the definition of "election advertising" is very
broad, and "relevant person" means you and me, there's not a lot that we are allowed to say!

- Read more of Alex Au's views on the rediculous Section 78 'Fuck Your Rights' Act.

Alex has brilliantly summarised all the citations relating to freedom of speech and general elections to 'we're not allowed to say anything'. Just brilliant. But of course, these definitions of terms are still rather up to individual interpretation. For example, does "relevant person" really mean everyone, including non-Singaporeans or any person not elligible to vote? i.e. young persons under 21.

Regardless, such an Act, unlike the Sedition Act, serves only one purpose alone and is clearly an attack on free speech and the civil liberties of the citizens of a democratic nation. Just another Act in the pillar of stability of Government control over people political dominance over opposition, maintaining apathy and silence amongst those that might have something to say. But more pervasive yet is the extention of the long arm of the law onto the Internet, where civilised political discussion at the very least would never have been considered for regulation by any right-minded democratic, first world country.

The Internet is ours, to the advocates of free expression and civil liberty. And Singaporean bloggers will have to fight the hardest to overcome apathy and amongst all else, the overcast of fear set over decades of government regulation and control. They can control via censorship of the mass media; tv stations, radio stations and newspapers. But they will not take the Internet. It is the front lawn of your Mid-West country home and when the law steps on it to tell you what you can and cannot say, you should respond accordingly with redneck tradition. Cast away fear and set yourselves free. Prove Orwell wrong.

In the meantime, I have a song I'd like to dedicate to the control-freaks of Singapore. It goes something like this...

Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!
Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!

- Killing in the Name, RATM.

PS: Please do go out and vote if elligible. You can vote absolutely anyone you want... Just don't vote the knobhead PAP.

Oh, and LKY and offspring are also idiots.
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