Handout of song lyrics is not ban list: Shanmugam
Home Affairs and Law Minister says it is untrue that all offensive content will be banned
The song lyrics used to illustrate what could be considered offensive speech are not examples of content that have been or will be banned here, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam clarified yesterday.
He said in a Facebook post that the list, which was distributed in Parliament on Monday as part of a set of handouts accompanying his ministerial statement on hate speech, was used to illustrate his point that while people may find many things offensive, it does not mean they all get banned.
A photograph of the list was widely shared overnight after Workers' Party MP Chen Show Mao shared it on Facebook at the end of Monday's sitting with the caption: "Lesson of the day. Ministerial handouts."
The list, which included lyrics from Nine Inch Nails' Heresy, Hozier's Take Me To Church, Ariana Grande's God Is A Woman and Lady Gaga's Judas, was shared more than 1,000 times and drew more than 300 comments, with netizens wondering whether the Government would ban them.
It was also picked up by wire agency Reuters and international media including British tabloid The Daily Mail.
Mr Shanmugam said in his Facebook post that people who did not listen to the speech may misunderstand that the list contains songs that have been or are going to be banned.
"All of that is untrue," he said.
In his ministerial statement, Mr Shanmugam had said it is not possible for the Government to accept any community's viewpoint on all issues.
"We can't and won't ban everything... The Government will be fair, even-handed, and it has to be practical," he said on Monday.
Nominated MP Walter Theseira, who was part of the hate speech debate, told The New Paper that Mr Shanmugam referred to the list of lyrics when explaining that while as written, there is a fair argument they could be offensive, the Government looks at other factors, like the likely impact of the speech.
Mr Theseira said: "I don't think the point he was trying to make was that the moment something meets a certain catchphrase or keyword, it is offensive and automatically the Government will do something about it... "
Calling Mr Chen's post "mischievous", political observers told TNP by sharing the list with no context, Mr Chen was not being fair to Mr Shanmugam or Singaporeans who did not have the benefit of being in the chamber.
Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan said it would have been "gracious parliamentary behaviour" for Mr Chen to indicate the context in which it was used.
"I suppose he was, in a way, trying to capture the mood or concerns of some Singaporeans over what are the Government's intentions. But I don't think it was done with sufficient finesse and appropriateness," Associate Professor Tan said.
Associate lecturer at SIM Global Education Felix Tan said Mr Chen might have had his electorate in mind and could have been trying to garner certain strong reactions. But, he said compiling a list of song lyrics also sends a wrong signal to the public and could give certain conservative groups tacit approval to take a stand against songs that might offend them.
At 7pm yesterday, Mr Chen responded on Facebook to say the illustration of the offensive lyrics raised several questions.
"Should we allow unrestricted offensive speech in general mainstream discourse, in religion, politics, media and entertainment, even if it is not hate speech?" he wrote.
"If we agree that there have to be restrictions on offensive speech even when it is not strictly speaking hate speech, what should be the extent of the restrictions?"
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