Singaporeans are abuzz yet cautious about government pledges to ease restrictions on free speech and public assembly in the city state.
Writers, filmmakers, activists, and politicians are either expressing optimism or warning against too much of it, after the country's prime minister promised to allow more issues to be ventilated in the notoriously restrictive political environment of
Singapore -- subject to certain "ideals" of factuality and nonpartisanship.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, acknowledging the advent of new media, announced during the National Day Rally on August 17 that the government will ease the ban on political videos and outdoor public demonstrations, media reports said.
An outright ban is no longer sensible, he said. At the same time, he noted that such relaxation of restrictions will still be guided by what he called safeguards. I think some things should still be off limits... (for instance) if you made a
political commercial so that it's purely made-up material, partisan stuff, footage distorted to create a slanted impression .
The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, led by former "Singapore Press Holdings" editor-in-chief Cheong Yip Seng, will present its recommendations on these issues later this month.
The Straits Times reported the prime minister as saying that political films will be dealt with in ways similar to non-political films, with censorship and film classification standards, with a panel to decide whether or not a political film would pass.
Singaporean film makers expressed mixed feelings with this development. This is by far the most obvious relaxation of political space in Singapore in the past 20 years. It will lessen the climate of fear, according to film maker Martyn See who had
two of his films banned in recent years.