Reuters report on Speakers' Corner protest 'misleading'

Participants attending a protest against issues such as the influx of foreigners into Singapore and public transport fare hikes at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park in 2015.
Participants attending a protest against issues such as the influx of foreigners into Singapore and public transport fare hikes at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park in 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Singapore Police Force yesterday said it was "regrettable" that a report by news agency Reuters on a protest held last Saturday contained "unsubstantiated allegations", and described it as an attempt to stoke fears about the use of the Speakers' Corner in Hong Lim Park.

The news agency had published a report last Saturday about a protest over the upcoming water price hike which was attended by about 100 people at the free-speech zone.

A line in the report read: "The organisers of Saturday's protest said more people would have turned up if they had not feared a police crackdown."

It also stated that in 2014, six people "were charged with creating a public nuisance while protesting against a compulsory tax savings scheme".

In a statement last night, police rebutted the two points, saying it was "regrettable" that the news agency ran a report containing "unsubstantiated allegations from the (protest) organisers".

The report presented a "false and misleading picture" on the use of the Speakers' Corner in Singapore, it said, noting that a police permit is not required for events held at the free-speech zone, as long as they do not cause racial or religious enmity, or pose any law-and-order risks.

Many large-scale events involving thousands of participants have been held at the Speakers' Corner, the police added.

On the six people who were charged, the police said their protest had disrupted a charity event at an adjacent lawn.

The six, who included blogger Han Hui Hui, were charged and convicted of public nuisance with common intention in October 2014.

"(The Reuters report) was clearly an attempt to stoke fears about the use of the Speakers' Corner and sow distrust of the police," said the police in their statement.

"A more objective reporting would have shown that the Speakers' Corner has been, and remains, an avenue for Singaporeans to participate freely and responsibly in public speeches and demonstrations."

Reuters could not be reached for comment as at press time last night.

Pearl Lee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 13, 2017, with the headline 'Reuters report on Speakers' Corner protest 'misleading''. Print Edition | Subscribe