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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

Li-ann THIO

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 2008

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

THIO, Li-ann, The Virtual and the Real: Article 14, Political Speech and the Calibrated Management of Deliberative Democracy in Singapore (July 2008). Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, pp. 25-57, July 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1265329

Li-ann THIO (Contact Author)

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Faculty of Law ( email )

469G Bukit Timah Road
Eu Tong Sen Building
Singapore, 259776
Singapore

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