The Virtual and the Real: Article 14, Political Speech and the Calibrated Management of Deliberative Democracy in Singapore
33 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2008 Last revised: 15 Sep 2008
Date Written: July 2008
Singapore has never adopted a laissez faire approach towards free speech, which is constitutionally entrenched in article 14 of the Singapore Constitution. Indeed, free speech is a means to various ends; its rationale is grounded in the arguments from truth, self-expression and democracy, which views political speech as the lifeblood of democratic societies. The official government view has been that an excessive focus on political liberties is destabilizing and inimical to economic growth and communitarian 'Asian values'. Nonetheless, government policy has undergone a minor sea-change in loosening restrictions on political liberties to accommodate the demands of a more educated, affluent citizenry for greater participation in public affairs. This article focuses on two questions.
First, what is the evolving government approach towards regulating political speech in the real and virtual realm. There has been a shift from 'blanket bans' to a more calibrated approach towards managing free speech issues. Second, what insight does the scope of free speech shed in relation to the type of political community we are, how we value political speech and other social goods. It evaluates law and policy which regulates political speech, as well as judicial approaches towards construing article 14 issues. It offers an in-depth analysis of the only public law case concerning speech in cyberspace, in relation to racist blogs. In particular, it analyzes how political digital speech can both promote and undermine democracy in Singapore, measured against the central role free speech plays in promoting truth and solidifying a democratic order.
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