In Singapore, a pending court case is examining the legal limits that virtual conferences should respect. Recently, a human rights defender, Jolovan Wham, was convicted in court for conducting an illegal conference via Skype. He also refused to sign his statement at the request of the police.
The court will deliver its verdict on Wednesday, January 23, 2019. The activist faces a prison term of up to three years or a fine of up to S $ 5,000.
Wham said on his Twitter account that the judge in charge of the case did not want to give reasons for his decision.
Jolovan Wham is a social worker with the Community Action Network (CAN) Singapore. This community is made up of activists, journalists and social workers fighting for the defense of civil and political rights. Previously, the 39-year-old activist was also the executive director of the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics, a group defending the rights of migrant workers.
The police did not allow the Skype conference
The Skype event was relayed on the social network Facebook. 355 people indicated that they were interested in the conference while 121 people indicated that they had attended.
The conference in question lasted about two hours. Then, it was broadcast live on Facebook by The Online Citizen SG. It is a social media platform focused on political activism.
The conference gathered no less than 5,700 views. Singapore Police issued a statement advising Wham of the need to obtain permission before hosting the Skype conference. Unfortunately, the activist ignored this warning.
Closed conference or public conference?
On the sidelines of this case, Wham is also accused of having conducted public gatherings without authorization and of refusing to sign declarations, as required by the Penal Code. Indeed, in Singapore, it is a criminal offense to organize or participate in a public meeting without the authorization of the police, in accordance with the law on public order.
CAN Singapore members and Joshua Wong, an activist and founder of the Scholarism group, commonly said the Skype conference was "behind closed doors." They claim that conversations on Skype that take place within the confines of a private space are private conversations. To this end, they think that logically, this should not require any authorization.
For them, the authorities had no reason to intervene or bring the charges against Wham.