The Singapore Government has revoked the sale and distribution approval for the “Far Eastern Economic Review” (FEER) after the monthly magazine failed to comply with two requirements under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, reports the local “Channel News Asia” on its website.
Categorised as a “declared foreign newspaper” under the Act, the Hong Kong-based periodical was ordered on 3 August 2006 to appoint a legal representative in Singapore and submit a security deposit of S$200,000.
When FEER did not comply by the deadline on 11 September, it was issued a reminder on 14 September but to no result again, leading to the revocation of its circulation.
However, the magazine is still accessible on its website. “We regret that this action infringes on the fundamental rights of our Singaporean subscribers and further restricts the already narrow scope of free expression in Singapore,” it said on 28 September.
Almost concurently, FEER editor Hugo Restall and its publisher, Review Publishing Company Ltd, are being sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister. The Lees claimed that a FEER article on Dr Chee Soon Juan, the firebrand secretary general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party, had defamed them. Chee is also being sued for the same alleged offence.
Some political observers in Singapore believe that the FEER article on Chee precipitated the government’s lassoing of the magazine via the Act.
Notorious for its intolerance of dissenting political views and media freedom, Singapore recently restricted civil society participation in the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) where it played host.
Many invited non-governmental representatives were blocked or deported upon arrival, inviting heavy criticism even from the world bodies.
Chee himself had a three-day stand-off with the police at the city-state’s “Speakers’ Corner”, from where he had been trying to march to the meetings to draw world attention to the lack of freedom of speech and assembly in the country.