Reporters Without Borders today condemned an immediate ban on the distribution and sale in Singapore of the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), which has been imposed by the information minister under article 23 of the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (NPPA).
The ban was imposed as a result of a lawsuit brought against the Hong Kong-based magazine by Prime Minster Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
“We condemn the application of legislation that violates press freedom,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The minister’s decision has created a barrier to the entry of any foreign publication that wants to be distributed in Singapore.”
The Lees have won hundreds of thousands dollars in libel suits, which they say have been necessary to protect their reputation against baseless allegations. But, as things stand, it would be hard for them to win anything in their lawsuit against the FEER because it has no bureau in Singapore.
Using article 23 of the NPPA, the information minister has suspended sale of the FEER until it appoints a legal representative and deposits a security bond of 200,000 Singaporean dollars (100,000 euros). The NPPA gives the minister complete freedom to impose restrictions on foreign newspapers.
Singapore’s legislation also provides for a fine of 50,000 dollars or two years in prison, or both, for any person who distributes a newspaper illegally. The requirement to appoint a legal representative and deposit a bond also applies to the other foreign publications that are sold in Singapore, namely, the International Herald Tribune, Time, the Financial Times and Newsweek.