| SINGAPORE, July 26
SINGAPORE, July 26 Singapore government lawyers
have started legal proceedings that could result in a political
cartoonist serving a jail term, in another sign that the
long-ruling People's Action Party (PAP) is becoming increasingly
intolerant of opponents, critics said.
Chew Peng Ee, known to followers of his "Demon-cratic
Singapore" site on Facebook as Leslie Chew, had committed
contempt of court "by scandalising the judiciary of the Republic
of Singapore", the Attorney-General's Chambers said in a
statement on Thursday.
The charges stemmed from four cartoons that Chew had
published in 2011 and 2012, three of which were about the
perceived unfairness of the courts when imposing punishment. His
case will be heard on Aug. 12.
Chew has already been investigated for sedition for alleging
official discrimination against Singapore's ethnic Malay
minority and is out on police bail, his lawyer said.
There are no prescribed penalties for contempt of court in
Singapore and the judge could issue a warning or fine instead of
a jail sentence. For sedition, a person could be fined up to
S$5,000 ($3,900) or jailed up to three years, or both.
Prosperous, multi-racial Singapore, a key U.S. ally, has
long taken a tough stand against criticism of the government.
Leaders have taken legal action against critics, saying they
needed to protect their reputations.
The most recent case of a critic being jailed took place in
2011 when Alan Shadrake, a British writer, was sentenced to six
weeks in prison for contempt of court and scandalising the
judiciary with a book about the death penalty in Singapore.
Government spokesmen were not immediately available for
comment on the case of the cartoonist.
Singapore recently introduced laws to license news websites
that report regularly on the city-state, in a move seen by many
as a bid to control the spread of anti-government reports and
commentary via social media.
Such reports and commentaries were believed to have
contributed to gains by the opposition in a general election in
"The PAP government has essentially decided it needs to tame
the blogosphere and social media," said blogger Alex Au.
Au, who uses the nickname Yawning Bread, this week accused
the government in a blog post of trying to re-create a "climate
of fear" to silence critics.
"This change of tack is becoming clearer by the week as more
and more instances arise where ministers and members of
parliament go out to bash citizens trying to raise issues or
comment on current affairs," he said.
Zuraidah Ibrahim, deputy editor of the pro-government
Straits Times newspaper, wrote in a recent column that clashes
between the PAP and the opposition Workers' Party had become
more heated as Singapore reached the middle of the electoral
Both sides were trying to mobilise supporters ahead of
elections that must be called by 2016, she said.
"There have been criticisms from among the party faithful
that the PAP has allowed itself to be too much of a punching bag
since the last general election. They want to see their leaders
coming out of the corner swinging."
($1 = 1.2663 Singapore dollars)
(Reporting by Kevin Lim; Editing by Robert Birsel)