Freedom in the World
The authorities continued to restrict freedom of speech in 2010. Among other prominent cases during the year, officials ordered the removal of a politically sensitive film from the internet, convicted a British author of defamation for his criticism of Singapore’s justice system, and drove the International Herald Tribune to apologize and pay fines for an article associating the prime minister with a broader phenomenon of dynastic politics in Asia.
The British colony of Singapore obtained home rule in 1959, entered the Malaysian Federation in 1963, and gained full independence in 1965. During his three decades as prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew and his People’s Action Party (PAP) transformed the port city into a regional financial center and exporter of high-technology goods but restricted individual freedoms and stunted political development.
Singapore is not an electoral democracy. The country is governed through a parliamentary system, and elections are free from irregularities and vote rigging, but the ruling PAP dominates the political process. The prime minister retains control over the Elections Department, and the country lacks a structurally independent election authority. Opposition campaigns are hamstrung by a ban on political films and television programs, the threat of libel suits, strict regulations on political associations, and the PAP’s influence on the media and the courts.