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Alan Shadrake and the Police State, Books, Death Penalty

Book on Singapore Govt’s use of Death Penalty “not banned” but yanked off the shelves after a call from the Govt

This is a report in today’s Straits Times about Alan Shadrake’s book Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock. See my post here about this book,

Store withdraws book on death penalty
By Liew Hanqing, Straits Times, 17 July 2010

A NEW book which discusses the death penalty in Singapore and carries purported interviews with the country’s former executioner has been pulled from bookshelves here.

The book, titled Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice In The Dock, by veteran freelance journalist Alan Shadrake, 75, was released for sale in Kuala Lumpur on June 26.

It went on sale at the Kinokuniya bookshop’s flagship store at Ngee Ann City around the same time, but was taken off the shelves less than two weeks later.

When asked about the book’s availability, Kinokuniya staff members confirmed that it was no longer on sale, and that customers would not be able to order it.

Asked why it was removed, they would say only that the action was taken after the store was contacted by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

When contacted, Mrs K. Gunavathy, a senior analyst of publications/media content and standards at MDA, said the book had not been banned in Singapore.

However, she said that the MDA would, ‘where necessary, advise book importers and retailers to seek legal advice to ensure that the books they sell do not contravene Singapore laws’.

The MDA did not reply when asked specifically if it had ordered the book to be removed.

Mrs Gunavathy added that the publications industry here is largely self-regulated and that the authority does not vet books for sale and circulation.

A spokesman for the National Library Board added that the book would soon be available for reference at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library.

When contacted, Mr Shadrake said he learnt from a friend a few weeks ago that the book was no longer on sale in Singapore, adding that it was ‘a pity’.

In October 2005, Mr Shadrake revealed the identity of Singapore’s long-time hangman in a front-page article published in The Australian newspaper.

The piece later made it to many other international newspapers as well.

His 219-page book is filled with accounts of high-profile cases in Singapore involving the use of the death penalty, interspersed with accounts of his interaction with the former hangman, Mr Darshan Singh, when he interviewed him at his HDB flat in Marsiling in 2005.

19th Nov 2010 update

From a Straits Times report dated 17 Nov 2010 titled Shadrake gets 6 weeks jail and $20,000 fine,

Shadrake’s book has not been banned. But Ms K. Gunavathy, a senior analyst in the Media Development Authority, said: ‘As the book has been found by the court to contain passages which scandalise the Singapore judiciary, the distribution of the book would amount to contempt of court.’

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