Reporters Without Borders today launched an international petition calling for the acquittal of British author and journalist Alan Shadrake who is facing two years in prison for writing a book about the death penalty in Singapore.
Alan Shadrake, who is aged 75, has been charged with “contempt of court” and the verdict in his case is expected on 26 October. At his trial which opened on 18 October, the prosecutor accused the journalist of making comments “against the independence and integrity of the Singapore judiciary” in his book "Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock". Hema Subramanian, a lawyer from the Attorney General’s Chambers, said that Shadrake’s book contained "baseless, unwarranted attacks…that directly attacked the Singapore judiciary”. She termed the allegations in the book as “outrageous, offensive and irresponsible”.
The journalist’s lawyer, M Ravi, argued that the book was well documented and backed up by evidence. It was a “serious-minded and compassionate examination of the death penalty in Singapore”.
Reporters Without Borders urges the Singapore judiciary to accept Alan Shadrake’s innocence and allow him to leave the country. In fact, the book contains no defamatory remarks, no personal attacks or verbal assaults aimed at undermining the operation of the justice system. Given that it is simply a critical analysis of the institution and its methods as a result of a rigorous and well documented investigation, this work cannot constitute contempt of court.
We would like to stress the fact that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) of which Singapore is a founding member, is a protector of basic freedoms. The Singaporean government in July 1993 joined other member states in supporting the Vienna Declaration on Human Rights 1993 that calls on countries to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees freedom of expression.
Shadrake has been forced to stay on in Singapore since July in very difficult circumstances. His passport has been confiscated and his health has deteriorated badly since his arrest in July. He has serious heart problems and recently suffered an internal haemorrhage.
The British journalist is also virtually without resources and suffering serious financial problems.