Singapore's parliament yesterday passed a controversial new law defining what conduct can be penalized as contempt of court.

Many activists fear the law, which can result in fines up to S$100,000 (US$75,000) or up to three years imprisonment, could have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Singapore and abroad.

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In addition to drawing criticism from rights groups and foreign diplomats, the new law is opposed by Lee Wei Ling (李瑋玲), the daughter of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀).

Lee, who is also the younger sister of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (李顯龍), wrote on Facebook that she was “amazed that there has not been more vocal protest by more Singaporeans.” According to Reuters, a petition calling for a delay has only garnered 249 signatures.

The bill gives the government the right to comment while denying that right to people, which is inconsistent with equality before the law and an attempt to muzzle public opinion, she says.

“Perhaps, Singaporeans have gotten used to an authoritarian government who until recently had always acted for their wellbeing, and so when another new action is taken, they do not even bother to think whether it may be against their welfare,” Lee wrote.

In a later Facebook post she said, “Let me remind everyone, the current government was voted in by Singaporeans. If it does not act for the welfare of Singaporeans, it can be voted out.”

Singapore ranked 154th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders' latest World Press Freedom report.

First Editor: J. Michael Cole
Second Editor: Olivia Yang