New Singapore anti-terror law can order media blackout

FILE - In this July 21, 2008, file photo, Singapore police officers patrol outside the Shangri-La hotel, a possible venue for the Trump-Kim summit, in Singapore. A new law that gives the police special powers during terrorist attacks, including widely banning journalists and members of the public from reporting on the scene, took effect in Singapore on Wednesday, May 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara, File)

SINGAPORE — A new law that gives the police special powers during terrorist attacks, including widely banning journalists and members of the public from reporting on the scene, took effect in Singapore on Wednesday.

The law gives the police the power to block all communications on-site, ranging from photographs to videos, text and audio messages, for up to a month if authorities feel security operations could be compromised.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, which drafted the law, said Tuesday that the country faces a "clear and present terrorism threat, posed by home-grown radicalized individuals and foreign terrorists."

"It is therefore important to equip the police with powers to ... respond swiftly and effectively to attacks of any scale and of varying tactics, and minimize the chances that their security operations are compromised," the ministry said.

Individuals who flout the new law face a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars ($14,891).

The ministry said the law would make the police more effective in responding to terrorist threats. It cited previous attacks in Mumbai and Paris, where live broadcasts allegedly allowed terrorists to anticipate the next move of security forces.

During the 2008 Mumbai attacks, videos of security forces preparing to storm the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel allowed gunmen to anticipate the move, it said. In the 2015 attack on a deli in Paris, a terrorist who had taken several hostages was able to watch live television broadcasts showing police preparing to enter the deli, the ministry said.

Singapore, located close to the Muslim-majority nations of Malaysia and Indonesia, with Islamic State group sympathizers, has effectively checked terrorist threats.

Lawmakers have said the new law will be used sparingly, and that selected media outlets and journalists will be given access to the scene.

Rights groups fear that the new legislation would limit press freedom. "No one disputes the need for special measures in the event of a terrorist attack, but it is not the interior ministry's job to decide what journalists can broadcast or publish," said Daniel Bastard, who heads the Reporters Without Borders' Asia-Pacific office.

Singapore is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in the group's world press freedom index.

Must Read

China's Xi offers populist message in New Year's...

Dec 31, 2016

Chinese President Xi Jinping says his government will continue to focus on poverty alleviation at...

China says some factories have violated anti-smog...

Jan 3, 2017

China's environmental ministry says an unspecified number of companies have violated measures meant...

McDonald's sells China business in deal worth up...

Jan 9, 2017

Fast-food giant McDonald's is selling a controlling stake in its China business to a group of...

China state media call Trump's Taiwan strategy...

Jan 16, 2017

China's state-run media says President-elect Donald Trump "speaks like a rookie" and called his...

A look at how Trump might shake things up in Asia

Jan 16, 2017

Donald Trump has offered views on U.S. relations with Asia that could indicate radical shifts in...

Sign up now!

Advertisement