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From Labour Day to Press Freedom Day

This week: Hundreds in Hong Lim Park on Labour Day in support of people power, Singapore’s dark orange ranking in the World Press Freedom Index, and a little update on the defamation case filed against Lee Hsien Yang by Cabinet ministers.

I was a booth elf on Labour Day and got baked at Hong Lim Park. I feel like I’m still recovering… That heat really never give chance.


Were you at the Labour Day Rally on Wednesday? I know some of you were, because you came over to our Transformative Justice Collective booth to say hi. 🥰

Despite the heat, over 500 people showed up in Hong Lim Park in support of people power and workers’ rights. From what I saw, all the booths were busy and bustling—we had a constant stream of visitors to our TJC booth and I really enjoyed the conversations I got to have with people about the death penalty, Singapore’s War on Drugs, and TJC’s work to dismantle both.

The rally was organised by Workers Make Possible: follow them on Instagram to stay updated on their great work.

I was so busy that I actually forgot to take any photos of the rally 😓 😓 😓 So here’s a photo of my mini SKZOO volunteers doing their part for the cause! (Hint: that PayNow code to donate to TJC also works when you scan it off this photo. If that’s something you want to do. 🙏🏼)


It was World Press Freedom Day yesterday and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its annual Press Freedom Index. This year, Singapore ranks 126 out of 180 with a score of 47.19, still within the dark orange group characterised as “difficult” in terms of press freedom. Last year, we ranked 129 out of 180 with a score of 47.88, so we’ve jumped three spots while declining a bit score-wise.

In its general press release, RSF points out something unsurprising but depressing nonetheless: “Press freedom around the world is being threatened by the very people who should be its guarantors – political authorities. […] This finding is based on the fact that, of the five indicators used to compile the ranking, it is the political indicator that has fallen most, registering a global average fall of 7.6 points.” In the Asia-Pacific region, RSF says, “authoritarian governments are throttling journalism”.

It’s also generally just a hard time for journalists and the journalism industry. Just this week Yahoo announced that it’s getting rid of its editorial and social media teams in Singapore. There is money sloshing around out there but it’s usually not reaching independent journalists (many of whom now work as freelancers) and small independent media outlets. If it’s within your means, please consider supporting an independent media publication you appreciate (it doesn’t have to be this newsletter, although obviously I won’t complain if it is), whether that’s making a donation or subscribing or promoting it to friends and family who might just need that final push to become subscribers.


K Shanmugam and Vivian Balakrishnan were both present in court on Thursday for the hearing to determine the amount of damages Lee Hsien Yang should pay them. They sued LHY for defamation last year after he made comments on Facebook about their renting of state-owned bungalows on Ridout Road. The court ruled against LHY in November last year, granting injunctions to restrain him from making defamatory allegations against the two ministers over the Ridout matter.

There wasn’t much to be said at the Thursday hearing, I suppose, because LHY was neither present nor represented. He’s already left Singapore, and appears to have no intention of coming back to deal with this. The ministers say they’ll leave the court to determine the amount of damages LHY should pay.

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On the radar

🇲🇾 My friend Pauline of PUSAKA (and also our contributing editor at Mekong Review) will be in town next week with Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari. Mak Yong is a dance-drama tradition from Kelantan in Malaysia and Pattani in southern Thailand, and Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari is one of Malaysia’s most esteemed Mak Yong groups. Pauline wrote about the women of Mak Yong for Mekong Review’s May 2023 issue. The group will be performing at Esplanade on 10, 11 and 12 May, so please check them out!

🗞️ The latest issue of Mekong Review is out, and it’s beautiful! You can find it at these stockists in Singapore, or order it online here. I’m the postage elf who handles all online orders and I’m going to be away for most of this month, so place your order by 6 May if you want me to post it to you before I leave! Otherwise I’ll only be able to send it to you after I’m back.

Thank you for reading! As always, feel free to forward this weekly wrap to anyone you like, and spread the word about this newsletter!