63% of Singaporeans are concerned that openly expressing political views online could get them into trouble with the authorities. These figures were released by the Reuters Institute in their 2018 Digital News Report.
The 2018 report was Reuters’ seventh annual report that explores the changing environment around news across countries. The report is based on a survey of more than 74,000 people in 37 markets, along with additional qualitative research, which together make it the most comprehensive ongoing comparative study of news consumption in the world.
Respondents were asked to rate the extent to which they agreed with the following statement: I tend to think carefully about expressing my political views openly on the internet because this could get me into trouble with the authorities.
Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans were among the most likely to select “agree” or “strongly agree”. In a survey of 37 countries, Singapore came in 2nd, behind Turkey, when it came to concerns about expressing political views for fear of retaliation from the government.
Norwegians, Americans, and Swedes were the least likely to be concerned with expressing political views online. These societies are vibrant democracies with high levels of press freedom and constitutional safeguards for freedom of speech.
By contrast, countries like Singapore and Turkey have introduced legislation in recent years curbing free speech and political dissent. Singapore’s Parliament recently passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) which criminalizes the dissemination of fake news online. The law gives the government far-reaching powers to determine what is fake news and who is exempt from the law. Critics have argued that the potential that it could be abused for political purposes is high.
In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime has been widely condemned for its imprisonment of hundreds of journalists and human rights activists on trumped up charges of “terrorism” or “insulting the President”.
With such draconian laws in the books, it’s no wonder netizens in both countries are so concerned about expressing political views online.