LEE Hsien Loong
10 February 1952
Prime Minister of Singapore since 12 August 2004
Predator since taking office
Singapore, 160th/180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index
PREDATORY METHOD: Self-censorship and systematic gagging
The son of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the city-state’s founder, Lee Hsien Loong has perpetuated his father’s one-party state and his “benevolent dictatorship” approach, one that amounts to saying: “Sleep in peace good people, your government is thinking for you.” There is no room for press freedom in this system. And to guarantee this, Lee has developed a relentless apparatus for news and information control. His first weapon is pre-emptive. Two big business groups own all of Singapore’s mainstream media outlets, and it is Lee’s government that directly appoints those who run them. Self-censorship is therefore the rule regarding any subject that might concern him. His second weapon is deployed after the event whenever required. The government-controlled Media Development Authority has the power to order the removal of any online content and to order the closure of any media outlet in an entirely arbitrary manner. At the same time, Lee is fond of suing bloggers he doesn’t like. He has an army of lawyers who sue them for astronomical sums, subjecting them to interminable legal proceedings with the aim of silencing them. Finally, an “anti-fake news” law that took effect in November 2019 has completed the government’s repressive armoury by giving it nothing less than the right to decide whether any news story is “true” or “false.”
FAVOURITE TARGETS: David (beaten by Goliath)
As all the mainstream print, radio, TV and online media are subjected to the government line straitjacket, only a handful of news websites and blogs try, with difficulty, to provide Singaporeans with reliable and independently reported news and information. Their administrators are often sued by Lee in person. The blogger Leong Sze Hian had to launch a crowdfunding appeal in May 2021 in a bid to raise the 165,000 euros he had been ordered to pay Lee simply for sharing a Facebook referring to alleged corruption. The Online Citizen editor Terry Xu has been forced to spend his nights studying Singaporean criminal procedure because he cannot afford to pay lawyers to defend him against Lee’s lawsuits.
OFFICIAL DISCOURSE: Crush the “ants”
“We have learnt to live with all these ant bites.” (On 6 October 202, referring to a blogger who Lee had sued for 80,000 euros).