[Singapore Internet Watch] September Internet News Round-Up; Privacy and Security Resources for Civil Society

19 September 2021

This round-up covers issues ranging from crucial privacy/security resources for civil society, the Yale-NUS merger, and the latest use of POFMA. We have provided some excerpts from the round-up below. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

Law and Digital Politics

The new foreign interference law: A new Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act has been introduced in Parliament. If passed, it will give the Singapore government the power to remove, change, or block “hostile” online information. As with POFMA, the bill’s impact on the shape of electronic communications will be noteworthy.

Sedition Act Repeal: The passage of more recent laws, such as POFMA has lessened the relevance of the Sedition Act, according to a bill introduced in Parliament to repeal it. However, with the Sedition Act’s repeal, the Criminal Procedure Code will be amended to make “ the deliberate wounding of any person’s religious or racial feelings” and “the promotion of disharmony” arrestable offences.

Crowdfunding for Damages to Singapore’s PM: The Online Citizen editor Terry Xu has been crowdfunding to pay for damages to PM Lee Hsien Loong, following 2 defamation lawsuits over TOC’s articles on the Lee siblings dispute.

Education

AI in Education: As part of Singapore’s National AI Strategy for education, MOE is exploring AI-enabled marking for English assignments and expects to integrate this into the Student Learning Space e-learning platform in 2 years.

Academic Freedom in Singapore: Academia.sg released their ground-breaking Academic Freedom Report. Check out this summary of key points from Yahoo Singapore: 78% of Singapore academics report at least ‘moderate’ interference: poll.

Yale-NUS Closure: read below for a compilation of recent analysis and commentary.

Business

Labour Protections for Platform Workers: Amidst a growing gig economy, PM Lee’s NDR speech addressed the precarity that platform workers face and acknowledged their need for better economic protections.

Manipulating Review Platforms: A Japanese restaurant in Singapore discovered that their negative online reviews it was receiving were actually their competitors trying to sabotage them

Security and Surveillance

Up to US$150,000 for Ethical Hackers: GovTech is launching a program to reward ethical hackers who find bugs and vulnerabilities in government websites and apps.

Autonomous Robots Patrolling the Heartland: This three week trial marks the first time “that an autonomous robot is being used to patrol and survey a public area with high foot traffic to enhance public health and safety”.


Singapore Internet Watch is a student-run group focusing on internet research. Their key focus areas include censorship, media regulation, misinformation and freedom of information.


The group believes in the need for open data and transparency in studying contentious issues at the intersection of Singapore’s internet and society.


Subscribe to their monthly newsletter to receive a round-up of the latest developments in Singapore’s media and politics, and updates on their work.


[Repost] List of Civil Society Organisations with Consultative Relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)

26 March 2021

Upon deliberation at the 19th Meeting of the AICHR, the AICHR is pleased to announce the list of CSOs with successful applications for Consultative Relationship with the AICHR as follows:

  1. Child Rights Coalition Asia
  2. MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore)
  3. Persatuan Penyandang Disabilitas Indonesia
  4. Save the Children Philippines
  5. The Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation

The AICHR looks forward for a meaningful and constructive engagement and interaction with the CSOs with Consultative Relationship to further enhance cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

https://aichr.org/news/list-of-civil-society-organisations-with-consultative-relationship-with-the-asean-intergovernmental-commission-on-human-rights-aichr/


[Joint statement] Open Letter to ASEAN on the situation in Myanmar

19 February 2021

Your Excellencies,

Re: ASEAN’s response to the military coup in Myanmar

As civil society organizations from the ASEAN region, we write to you urging you to use your unique position to influence the situation in Myanmar by taking immediate measures to ensure that the military respects people’s right to peaceful protests and to freedom of expression, that democracy is upheld, and the will of the people respected.

Following the Myanmar military’s illegal seizure of power on 1 February, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing assumed all legislative, executive, and judicial powers under the newly-established State Administrative Council.

A non-violent pro-democracy movement has since grown nationwide, and the Myanmar authorities have responded by cracking down on fundamental freedoms. Hundreds of senior officials from the National League for Democracy (NLD), pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders have been arrested; mobile phone and Internet communications have been heavily restricted; highly repressive legislation, including a draft Cyber Security Bill and revisions to the Penal Code have been adopted; and restrictions on gatherings imposed.

The Myanmar security forces have also increasingly responded with force against peaceful protesters, using live munitions, water cannons and deploying armored vehicles in cities. Given the abuses committed in the past by the Myanmar military under the command of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, including international crimes against the Rohingya and in other ethnic minority areas, we are seriously concerned about a potentially violent response from the authorities.

We would like to recall to your excellencies the principles of the ASEAN Charter, which includes adhering to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, as well as the respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We also recall the recent UN Security Council statement supporting and encouraging regional organizations, in particular ASEAN, to address the situation in Myanmar.

We welcome the ASEAN Chairman’s statement on the situation in Myanmar, later echoed by the representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). In addition, we are encouraged by the calls made by the leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia in seeking a special meeting of ASEAN’s foreign ministers to discuss the situation.

However, we urge you to go further by immediately using all diplomatic leverage at your disposal to ensure that the Myanmar military refrains from using violence and imposing further restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as to establish a comprehensive response that secures long-term democratic and human rights gains.

Recent developments in Myanmar are disastrous for its people, as well as the region as a whole. They create the potential for thousands of people to flee violence and persecution, as well as a volatile regional environment.  

We firmly believe that it is not only crucial, but also in ASEAN’s best interests, to take a strong stance on these urgent and worrying developments. Failure to do so risks further damaging ASEAN’s reputation as an effective regional body that can meaningfully contribute to a strong and viable community of nations.

We draw strength from ASEAN’s productive engagements with Myanmar’s military in the past, most notably in response to the Cyclone Nargis crisis of 2008. We urge ASEAN to recognize that it can be equally helpful to the  people of Myanmar today as it was then.

This is the perfect opportunity for ASEAN to demonstrate its political leverage and push for positive developments.

With this in mind, we urge ASEAN to:

  • Immediately hold an urgent special meeting to call on the Myanmar military to adhere to the principles of the ASEAN Charter, including the principles of democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms by:
    • Immediately and unconditionally releasing all those currently arbitrarily detained;
    • Refraining from using violence against protesters and respecting people’s right to privacy and information, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;
    • Allowing parliament to resume, and elected MPs to fulfil their mandate without impediment;
    • Immediately restoring full access to the Internet and all forms of communications; and
    • Immediately allowing all humanitarian aid and health support to resume unimpeded.
  • Collaborate with the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council to immediately send a delegation to the country to monitor the situation and help negotiate a democratic and human rights-based solution.
  • Use your position in UN fora, in particular at the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, to support enhanced monitoring and reporting of the unfolding human rights crisis in Myanmar.
  • Impose targeted financial sanctions on the military as an institution, including its businesses and its associates in a manner that respects human rights and gives due consideration to any negative socio-economic impact on the ordinary civilian population, as recommended by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar;
  • Impose an embargo on the transfer or sale of military arms and equipment to Myanmar; and
  • Use all diplomatic leverage and establish a comprehensive response to ensure long-term democratic and human rights change in the country, including by ensuring that:
  • The Myanmar armed forces end all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in ethnic minority and ceasefire areas, and that all civilians are protected;
    • Myanmar guarantees the safe, voluntary and dignified return of displaced communities, including the Rohingya, by lifting all arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on their access to citizenship, freedom of movement, and access to healthcare, education and livelihood opportunities;
    • Myanmar fully cooperates with the IIMM and complies with the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ; and
    • Institutional and constitutional changes are adopted that would bring the military under civilian control and ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Signatories:

  1. Alliance for Conflict Transformation
  2. ALTSEAN-Burma
  3. Arakan CSO network
  4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  5. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
  6. ASEAN Youth Forum
  7. Asia Justice and Rights
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  9. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  10. Athan
  11. Backpack Health Workers Team
  12. BALAOD Mindanaw
  13. Burma Medical Association
  14. Burmese Women’s Union
  15. Child Rights Coalition Asia
  16. Chin Human Rights Organization
  17. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  18. Cross Cultural Foundation
  19. Democracy, Peace and Women Organization
  20. Equality Myanmar
  21. Freedom and Labor Action Group
  22. Generation Wave
  23. Genuine People’s Servants
  24. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict
  25. Human Rights Educators Network
  26. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  27. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
  28. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  29. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  30. Karen Affairs Committee
  31. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
  32. Karen Grassroots Women Network
  33. Karen Human Rights Group
  34. Karen Peace Support Network
  35. Karen Refugee Committee
  36. Karen Rivers Watch
  37. Karen Student Network Group
  38. Karen Teacher Working Group
  39. Karen Women’s Organization
  40. Karenni Human Rights Group
  41. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  42. Karenni Refugee Committee
  43. Keng Tung Youth
  44. Let’s Help Each Other
  45. Maramagri Youth Network
  46. MARUAH
  47. Myanmar Civil Society Core Group on ASEAN
  48. Myanmar People Alliance
  49. Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
  50. Olive Organization
  51. Pa-O Women’s Union
  52. Pa-O Youth Organization
  53. Peace Institute
  54. People’s Empowerment Foundation
  55. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates
  56. Progressive Voice
  57. Pusat KOMAS
  58. Shan MATA
  59. SHAPE-SEA
  60. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM)
  61. Southern Youth Group
  62. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
  63. The Alliance of Independent Journalists
  64. The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace and Development
  65. Think Centre
  66. Thwee Community Development Network
  67. TRANSCEND Pilipinas
  68. Triangle Women
  69. Women’s League of Burma

[Repost] Laos: After eight years, civil society worldwide demands the government establish and reveal Sombath’s fate and whereabouts

25 January 2021

Link to original post

Jan 13, 2021 | DFFStatements

On the eighth anniversary of the enforced disappearance of Lao civil society leader Sombath Somphone, we, the undersigned organizations, reiterate our calls on the government of Laos to reveal his fate and whereabouts, and to investigate all allegations of enforced disappearances in the country to bring those responsible to justice in fair trials.

The government’s ongoing failure to thoroughly, independently, and impartially investigate the cases of Sombath and other alleged victims of enforced disappearance is compounded by its total lack of commitment to address this issue.

In June 2020, during the third Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Laos at the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council, the government refused to accept all five recommendations calling for an adequate investigation into Sombath’s enforced disappearance. The government also refused to accept another eight recommendations calling for investigations into all cases of alleged enforced disappearance.

Despite the government accepting that “the search for missing Lao citizens, including Sombath Somphone, is the duty of the Lao government”, it failed to demonstrate any will to effectively execute or fulfill this duty. The government stated that investigations into cases of enforced disappearances were “considered on a case by case basis,” but did not reveal how many investigations it had conducted, for which cases, or any updates on developments in the alleged investigations. It also failed to provide any information about its efforts to determine the fate and whereabouts of Sombath Somphone.

In addition, the government failed to further commit to ratifying the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance – a treaty that Laos signed in September 2008.

We renew our call for the establishment of an independent and impartial investigative body tasked with determining Sombath’s fate and whereabouts. The new body should receive international technical assistance in order to conduct a professional and effective investigation in accordance with international standards.

We also urge the Lao government to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without delay, incorporate its provisions into the country’s legal framework, implement it in practice, and recognize the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of the victims in accordance with Article 31 of the Convention.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with all victims of enforced disappearance in Laos and their families, and we will not stop demanding that all their cases be independently, impartially, and effectively investigated, and the perpetrators of such a serious crime be identified and held accountable in fair trials, regardless of their rank or status.

Sombath was disappeared, but our combined determination to seek truth, justice, and reparations for his enforced disappearance will never go away. Our commitment is as strong today as it was eight years ago. We are still asking “Where is Sombath?”

Background

Sombath was last seen at a police checkpoint on a busy street of the Lao capital, Vientiane, on the evening of 15 December 2012. Footage from a CCTV camera showed that Sombath’s vehicle was stopped at the police checkpoint and that, within minutes, unknown individuals forced him into another vehicle and drove him away in the presence of police officers. CCTV footage also showed an unknown individual driving Sombath’s vehicle away from the city center. The presence of police officers at Sombath’s abduction and their failure to intervene strongly indicates state agents’ participation in Sombath’s enforced disappearance.

Lao authorities have repeatedly claimed they have been investigating Sombath’s enforced disappearance but have failed to disclose any new findings to the public since 8 June 2013. They have neither met with Sombath’s wife, Shui Meng Ng, nor provided her with any updates on their investigation into his case since December 2017. Relatives of people who are forcibly disappeared are themselves victims of enforced disappearance and have the right to a remedy for violations of international human rights law. They frequently suffer harm, including mental anguish and material consequences, which may amount to torture or other ill-treatment.

Signed by:

  1. 11.11-Belgium
  2. Alliance Sud
  3. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma)
  4. Amnesty International
  5. ARTICLE 19
  6. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  7. Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  9. Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt (BWGED)
  10. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights
  11. Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines
  12. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  13. Center for Prisoners’ Rights
  14. Civil Rights Defenders
  15. CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network)
  16. Commonwealth human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
  17. Covenants Watch
  18. Cross Cultural Foundation
  19. Environics Trust
  20. Europe Solidaire Sans Frontières (ESSF)
  21. Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos
  22. FIAN International
  23. FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  24. Focus on the Global South
  25. Four Freedoms Forum
  26. Fortify Rights
  27. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
  28. Fresh Eyes
  29. Fundacion Solón
  30. Human Rights Watch
  31. International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances
  32. International Commission of Jurists
  33. International Rivers
  34. Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw)
  35. Justice for Iran
  36. Justice for Peace Foundation
  37. Lao Movement for Human Rights
  38. League for the Defence of Human Rights in Iran
  39. MADPET (Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture)
  40. Maldivian Democracy Network
  41. Manushya Foundation
  42. MARUAH
  43. Mekong Watch
  44. Odhikar
  45. Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
  46. People’s Watch
  47. Project SEVANA South-East Asia
  48. Taiwan Association for Human Rights
  49. The Corner House
  50. Transnational Institute
  51. Vietnam Committee on Human Rights
  52. WomanHealth Philippines
  53. World Organisation Against Torture
  54. World Rainforest Movement

Individuals

Achin Vanaik

Andy Rutherford

Angkhana Neelapaijit

Anna Polony

David JH Blake

Francine Mestrum

Jesus Santiago

Katherine Bowie

Keith Barney

Larry Lohmann

Leang Bunleap

Natalia Scurrah

Nick Buxton

Nick Hildyard

Sarah Sexton

Shui Meng Ng

Soren Bo Sondergaard

Thierry Kesteloot

William Nicholas Gomes


[Repost] UN Human Rights – Civil Society Weekly Update 47 (2020)

23 November 2020

We have extracted some interesting excerpts from UN Human Rights – Civil Society Weekly Update 47 (2020):


We are pleased to share with you a set of indicators developed by the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, M. Clément Voule, which were launched on the 7th month anniversary of the declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic by WHO. These indicators aim to measure State’s compliance with international standards regarding civic space, peaceful assembly, and political participation during public health emergencies.  These indicators are available in the following formats: 

1)      10 printable assessment cards:  they can be used by field presences and civil society actors to measure the degree of conformity of measures taken by governments to tackle COVID19 and their impact on the civic space in general. They are available in English, French and Spanish and downloadable under toolbox section here.

2)      An online survey (in ENGLISHFRENCH and SPANISH). Field presences and civil society can carry out their assessment online and share their results with the Special Rapporteur preferably before 30 November 2020. The results of this survey will be fed into the preparation of a dedicated report on “protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests during crisis situations”, which the Special Rapporteur was tasked with by Resolution A/HRC/44/L.11 adopted at the 44th session of the Human Rights Council. This report will be presented to the HRC in June 2022. 


In its Resolution 44/7, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult Member States and other relevant stakeholders in order to prepare and submit to its forty-seventh session an analytical study on the promotion and the protection of the rights of older persons in the context of climate change.  Accordingly, we would welcome your inputs to the study by e-mail to bschachter@ohchr.org and miyer@ohchr.org by no later than 31 December 2020. We would also welcome your kind assistance in circulating this call for inputs as widely as possible within your networks.  In formulating inputs, you are welcome to respond, as appropriate, to the attached questionnaire. For environmental considerations, electronic submissions are encouraged and we ask that responses not exceed five pages. Please submit contributions in MS Word or compatible format in either of the official working languages of the United Nations (French or English). Inputs received will be posted on our website.