Singapore blogger convicted of contempt of court

New York, January 23, 2015–A Singapore court on Thursday convicted a blogger on contempt of court charges in connection with an article he wrote that was critical of the judiciary, news reports said.

The Singapore High Court judge convicted Alex Au Waipang in connection with an October 5, 2013, article the blogger wrote that suggested a chief justice had manipulated court dates on a constitutional challenge to a law criminalizing gay sex between men, news reports said. The judge said that Au’s article suggested that the “as the Chief Justice wanted to hear one case, Supreme Court deliberately delayed the determination of another case so that the outcome of the first case would likely have an influence on the outcome of the second case,” according to reports.

In October, Singapore’s Court of Appeal upheld the constitutionality of 377A of the penal code, a British-era law that criminalizes sex between men, according to reports.

The judge also said the article posed or would pose “a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice in Singapore,” reports said.

Au will be sentenced in the coming days, reports said. It is unclear if he plans to appeal the decision. In Singapore, contempt of court is punishable by a prison term, a fine, or both. There is no maximum penalty specified under the country’s constitution, according to reports.

The judge also held that another article written by Au, in which the journalist suggested the courts were biased against cases involving homosexuality, did not violate the law.

“We are deeply troubled by Alex Au Waipang’s conviction,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “It is this verdict, not Au’s writing, that undermines public confidence in the judiciary.”

Singapore officials have previously used contempt charges against journalists critical of the country’s judicial system, CPJ research shows. In 2010, the Singapore High Court sentenced British author Alan Shadrake to prison in connection with his book, which criticized the nation’s judiciary.