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Book Censorship in Singapore

Singapore takes offence and puts author on trial


Update: 267 years on...

Singapore unbans Fanny Hill

Link Here27th November 2015
Full story: Book Censorship in Singapore...Singapore takes offence and puts author on trial
Singapore residents can now read 240 books and publications which were formerly blacklisted by the country's censor for content ranging from adult to communism -- but adult magazines such as Hustler , Penthouse and Playboy are still banned.

The ban was lifted after a routine review by book censors at the country's Media Development Authority (MDA) which told The Straits Times that it routinely reviewed prior classification decisions to ensure they kept pace with societal norms. The ban was lifted because the books were already out of print and were within the MDA's latest censorship rules.

Among the 240 blacklisted titles, one famous book was Fanny Hill, an erotic novel based on the life of a girl who moves to London and falls into prostitution. The novel was written by John Cleland and published in 1748.

The 17 titles still banned include publications of the Jehovah's Witness church, banned in 1972 as its members had declined to undergo military service which was deemed compulsory for men above the age of 18 in Singapore. The rest of the banned titles carry adult content, such as the magazines Penthouse, Playboy, Playgirl, Hustler, Mayfair, Men Only, Knave and Swank .


27th May

Update: Judged Insulting...

Alan Shadrake loses appeal against conviction in Singapore over his book

Singap[ore's Court of Appeal has affirmed the sentence of six weeks' jail and a $20,000 fine handed down to British author Alan Shadrake by the High Court for contempt of court.

Last year, the Attorney-General had applied to commit Shadrake for contempt of court on the ground that 14 passages in his book, Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock , had scandalised the judiciary.

In November last year, he was found by High Court judge Quentin Loh to have impugned the impartiality, integrity and independence of the courts here in 11 out of the 14 passages. Justice Loh sentenced Shadrake to six weeks' jail and a $20,000 fine - the heaviest punishment handed down here for contempt of court by way of scandalising the judiciary.

Shadrake appealed, a three-judge Court of Appeal, contrary to Justice Loh, found nine of the 14 passages to be in contempt.

Shadrake said he will not be able to pay the fine and will serve the default two-week jail term, making a total of eight weeks.


14th April

Update: Hanging On...

Alan Shadrake appeals against conviction in Singapore over his book

Last November, Alan Shadrake was found guilty of contempt of court over his book, Once A Jolly Hangman, which skewers Singapore's brand of capital punishment. He was fined 20,000 Singapore dollars and sentenced to six weeks in jail. Human rights groups complained that the verdict was harsh and unnecessary.

Shadrake was back in court this week, this time to appeal the verdict. He vows that he will fight his case and doesn't care if he ends up back in a Singaporean jail.

The British author has become an unlikely symbol of resistance to Singapore's thin-skinned elite. The pros and cons of the death penalty are rarely debated in Singapore. Last year Shadrake told the Monitor that he had discovered serious mismanagements of justice in his research for the book, which contains interviews with a retired hangman.

Singaporean prosecutors argue that Shadrake's book is libelous and erroneous, and told the court that the author was unrepentant and deserved to be jailed. He should reap the consequences of his contempt, a prosecutor said.


16th November

Updated: Not So Jolly...

British author convicted of offending Singapore judges over a lack of impartiality when using the death penalty

A Singapore court has found the UK author Alan Shadrake guilty of insulting the Singapore judiciary in a book he wrote about the death penalty.

The 75-year-old will be sentenced for contempt next week; he also faces trial on defamation charges.

In his book, Once a Jolly Hangman - Singapore Justice in the Dock, he criticised how the death penalty is used, alleging a lack of impartiality.

The Malaysia-based Shadrake was arrested in July when he visited Singapore to launch his book.

This is a case about someone who says among other things the judges in Singapore are not impartial... (and are) influenced by political and economic situations and biased against the weak and the poor, Justice Quentin Loh said.

The book contains interviews with human rights activists, lawyers and former police officers, as well as a profile of Darshan Singh, the former chief executioner at Singapore's Changi Prison. It claims he executed around 1,000 men and women from 1959 until he retired in 2006.

Separately, Shadrake is being investigated by the police for criminal defamation; his passport is being held by the police.

The BBC's Vaudine England says few critics of Singapore manage to avoid censure in the city-state's courts.

Update: Sentenced

16th November 2010.

A Singapore court jailed the 75-year-old British author for six weeks on Tuesday for publishing a book critical of executions in the city-state.

Alan Shadrake was handed the prison sentence and a fine of 20,000 Singapore dollars (15,000 US) for contempt of court over the book, which features an interview with a former chief executioner.

High Court Judge Quentin Loh dismissed a last-minute apology by Shadrake as nothing more than a tactical ploy in court to obtain a reduced sentence and ruled that the freelance journalist will have to serve two extra weeks in prison if he fails to pay the fine.

A fine should be imposed to prevent Mr Shadrake from profiting from his contempt (of court), the judge said.

The ruling said the sentence was the stiffest ever imposed for contempt of court in Singapore. The previous longest jail term was 15 days.

Update: Offered a Way Out

23rd November 2010. Based on article from

The Attorney General's Office made an unprecedented application for the court to remind Alan Shadrake of his right to seek leave of the court if he wants to leave Singapore.

This implies that if his defence team applies for Shadrake to leave the jurisdiction, the prosecution would not contest it.

Shadrake, who appealed the sentence last week, has said that he will consider the offer.


19th July

A Dangerous Topic...

British author arrested in Singapore over book on the death penalty there

A British author promoting his book on the death penalty in Singapore has been arrested there for alleged criminal defamation.

Alan Shadrake's arrest came two days after the government's Media Development Authority lodged a police report. The Foreign Office said it was seeking further information from Singaporean authorities.

The 75-year-old has also been served with an application by the attorney general for an order of committal for contempt of court , police said.

In an email to Reuters, Shadrake called himself a British freelance journalist and author who had planned to launch his latest book Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock in the city-state.

The Straits Times newspaper reported that the 219-page book was filled with accounts of high-profile cases in Singapore involving the use of the death penalty. It also included interviews with the city-state's former executioner.


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