Freelance journalist Kirsten Han wrote a New York Times article last month to say that Singapore as an “authoritarian paradise, where critics of the government are squelched and drug traffickers are hanged”. And also that a parliamentary committee has been set up to think about how to tackle deliberate online falsehoods and it hints at “new restrictions on the media”.
So yesterday, Singapore’s ambassador to the United States Ashok Kumar Mirpuri issued a rebuttal to the article. His main points:
(1) Singapore, like many countries, is trying to deal with the problem of fake news. Somemore, Singapore is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Fake news can have a disastrous impact.
He also said that more than 60 international media organisations are accredited in Singapore and Singaporeans debates issues “vigorously, online and off”. Ok lah, quite true also.
Somemore although Kirsten Han said no press freedom, but her article is published in New York Times which is published in Singapore and we can all read it if we want to.
(2) On Kirsten Han’s pet topic on drugs and capital punishment, the ambassador said that Singapore is a major port and financial centre sited in a region where heroin is produced and drug abuse is a major problem. Without strict laws and enforcement, Singapore would long have become a magnet for international drug traffickers.
Well this debate on the approach to drug trafficking is a circular argument lah and we know that Kirsten Han opposes capital punishment. So we’ll leave the discussion for another day. We just want to say, think of the families of the drug addicts being fed by this drug trade and how they are victims too. Even Mr Donald Trump is following Singapore’s model and rolling out the death penalty for some of their drug dealers.
On the select committee on online falsehoods, Kirsten Han said in her opinion piece that “there is no guarantee that any new law will not be used to restrict speech and clamp down on civil society”. That is true, but that is the same for any law that is enacted. Any law also has the potential to be used in a negative way. Then don’t make a law just because of the possibility of misuse? In this day that people can easily spread fake news to stir trouble, what if some shit happens and we have no means to do anything about it? We think what is important is to make sure there are safeguards to prevent abuse of any law.
And to prove her point on how important freedom of speech is, Kirsten Han was asked at the hearing for the select committee if the 2004 fake news that happened in Myanmar about the alleged sexual assault of a Buddhist woman by two Muslim men – which caused riots in the country- should be taken down, she said no. We tried to think if we can agree on that, but ehm, this is seriously nuts lah.
But the thing is, when she felt she was misrepresented by the media, she asked for the report to be taken down. SMRT Feedback pointed the irony out:
So, yup, we don’t really understand what Kirsten Han really want. Or is it she just want to speak bad of Singapore?