Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Free speech threatened in Singapore
Singapore's High Court on Tuesday found Wall Street Journal Asia in contempt of court for publishing two editorials and a letter to the editor that were found to be derogatory to Singapore's judiciary because they contained insinuations that Singapore's judiciary is biased, lacks impartiality and independence, and is subservient to the People's Action Party. The High Court held that finding the newspaper in contempt is consistent with the public interest exception to free speech under Singapore's constitution because the editorials have a tendency to interfere with the administration of justice. The case raises interesting parallels to the Sunday Times case from the United Kingdom, where the European Court of Justice ultimately held that the U.K. had violated its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by holding the Sunday Times in contempt for publishing articles relating to ongoing class action tort litigation. As in the Singapore case, the U.K. government had taken the position that the published articles interefered with the administration of justice. However, the European Court of Human Rights decided that the public's need to know the information outweighed those concerns. In the case of Singapore, however, there is no regional human rights court that has jurisdiction to review a decision of the High Court, nor is Singapore is a party to the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Therefore, the decision of the High Court of Singapore will likely stand.