2008 Human Rights Report: Singapore
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Source: U.S. Department of State
February 25, 2009
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
All public institutions of higher education and political research have limited autonomy from the government. Although faculty members are not technically government employees, in practice they were subject to potential government influence. Academics spoke and published widely and engaged in debate on social and political issues. However, they were aware that any public comments outside the classroom or in academic publications that ventured into prohibited areas--criticism of political leaders or sensitive social and economic policies or comments that could disturb ethnic or religious harmony or appeared to advocate partisan political views--could subject them to sanctions. Publications by local academics and members of research institutions rarely deviated substantially from government views.
In October the local branch of Australia-based James Cook University suspended John Tan, assistant secretary general of the SDP and a lecturer at the university, indefinitely from his teaching duties after the attorney general announced his intention to bring contempt-of-court charges against Tan for wearing a protest T-shirt to court.
The Films Act bans political advertising using films or videos as well as films directed towards any political purpose. The act does not apply to any film sponsored by the government, and the act allows the MICA minister to exempt any film from the act.
In May the MDA censors interrupted the private screening of political activist Seelan Palay's film One Nation Under Lee, which portrays the country as lacking press and political freedoms. The MDA confiscated the film because it had not been submitted to the Board of Film Censors for classification and certification. At year's end the Board of Film Censors still had not certified the film, with the result that any public screening remains unlawful.
A list of banned films was available on the MDA Web site. Certain films that were barred from general release may be allowed limited showings, either censored or uncensored, with a special rating. In April the MDA censors gave an NC-16 (no children below 16 years old) rating to a documentary by filmmaker Martyn See focused on the activities of SDP chief Chee Soon Juan and others during a three-day protest at the Speakers' Corner.
In January the MDA stopped the Complaints Choir from performing in public, stating that foreigners should not get involved in domestic politics. The choir included six foreigners among its 50 members and refused to perform without the six. The performance was moved to an indoor venue and was recorded and posted on YouTube, where it received over 10,000 viewings.
Ethnic Malays constituted approximately 15 percent of the population. The constitution acknowledges them as the indigenous people of the country and charges the government to support and to promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social, cultural, and language interests. The government took steps to encourage greater educational achievement among Malay students. However, ethnic Malays have not yet reached the educational or socioeconomic levels achieved by the ethnic Chinese majority, the ethnic Indian minority, or the Eurasian community. Malays remained underrepresented at senior corporate levels and, some asserted, in certain sectors of the government and the military. This reflected their historically lower educational and economic levels, but some argued that it also was a result of employment discrimination. The government issued guidelines that call for eliminating language referring to age, gender, or ethnicity in employment advertisements; restrictive language pertinent to job requirements, such as "Chinese speaker" remains acceptable. These guidelines were generally followed.
For the full report visit the U.S. Department of State.