June 9th, 2008
Media activism in Singapore has entered new territory with Gopalan Nair’s extraordinary challenge to the state, which has resulted predictably in his arrest. While Singaporeans are not unfamiliar with government restrictions on freedom of expression, what makes Nair’s case stand out is his deliberate provocation, designed to embarrass the government.
Nair’s “come and get me” posting is found at his blog singaporedissident.blogspot.com. (For news reports on the case so far, see Today and Reuters). Nair’s actions may mystify most Singaporeans – even government critics and opposition members – who prefer to stay clear of legal trouble if they can help it. They were probably intended to expose the state’s iron fist and thus attract the attention of the international human rights community. In that regard, the stunt has worked. Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders have already circulated reports on Nair’s arrest. Nair is now a US citizen, and may also be hoping that his country’s diplomats and politicians will add their voices to the protests. The San Jose Mercury News reported on 24 June that US diplomats have discussed the case with the Singapore Government and its ambassador in Washington DC.
Nair’s seemingly reckless provocation of the Singapore authorities is very much in line with Chee Soon Juan’s strategy of the past several years, analysed in an earlier article on civil disobedience.
Updates on the case: