Singapore passes contentious law against foreign political interference
Bangkok, Oct 5 (EFE).- The Singapore parliament has passed a law against foreign interference in the politics of the city-state that has been criticized by human rights activists for allegedly granting arbitrary powers to the government.
The law, passed at midnight, will compel Internet providers and social media platforms to provide authorities with information about users, block publications, and remove applications, among other things.
Those found in violation of the law could face harsh prison sentences and heavy fines.
“This Bill is intended to address a serious threat that concerns our national security and sovereignty,” Law and Home Affairs Minister Kasiviswanathan Shanmugam said.
“And these are important to ensure that Singaporeans continue to make our own choices on how we should govern our country and live our lives,” he added.
This law, introduced in the parliament just three weeks ago and rejected by the opposition, gives the Interior Ministry power to order direct investigations into issues of public interest with the aim of unearthing “hostile information campaigns” by foreign entities.
The investigations will not need the approval of the justice system, as the government argues that they are sensitive issues that concern intelligence agencies and have implications for national security.
The government, which passed a law against so called fake news in 2019, argues that the current law is necessary because of the vulnerability of the multi-ethnic city-state – an important financial hub – to possible disinformation campaigns, especially over the Internet.
Opposition parties, which have a small representation in parliament, have reject the legislation over the vague language used in the law.
Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch in Asia, called the call a disaster for human rights activists, the independent press and the political opposition as it gives the government arbitrary powers to punish anyone based on vague accusations.
“Using this law, the government can… shut down viewpoints it doesn’t like. Once again, Singapore demonstrates how little faith it has in its democracy by resorting to political measures better suited to authoritarian regimes,” said Robertson.
Singapore, one of the most prosperous countries in the world, exercises tight control over the media and ranks 160 out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index of 2021, below countries like Venezuela, Russia, and Afghanistan. EFE