Bangkok, February 28, 2018–Draft anti-terrorism legislation under consideration in Singapore would imperil press freedom by banning journalists from covering terror attacks, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
The Public Order and Safety Bill, also referred to as the Special Powers Bill, was introduced in Singapore’s parliament on Tuesday, and would empower police to issue a “communications stop order” for all information pertaining to a terrorist attack pending approval from the home affairs minister, according to news reports.
The order would prevent journalists and others from taking photographs or videos at terror attack sites, and ban any communication about police operations underway at those sites, Reuters reported.
Penalties for violating the law would include a maximum two-year prison sentence, and fines of up to 20,000 Singapore dollars (US$15,200), a home ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
“Singapore’s proposed ban on photographing or videoing terror attacks would black out the news precisely when the public needs to be accurately informed,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s Southeast Asia representative. “Independent reporting is crucial to public safety in crisis situations. This draft law should be scrapped or amended to protect and uphold reporters’ rights.”
In justifying the proposed censorship measures, the Interior Ministry said that live broadcasts of attacks in other countries had at times revealed police positions and unwittingly helped the attackers, the English-language daily, the South China Morning Post said.
Singapore has not suffered a major terrorism-related attack, but authorities claimed to have foiled several plots, including an Islamic State plan to fire a rocket at the island nation from a nearby Indonesian island inn 2016, reports said.