Peaceful Assembly

While the Constitution appears to guarantee the freedom of assembly, in practice the state keeps a tight grip on public gatherings, which require police permission. The Public Order Act and Public Entertainment and Meeting Act are used to suppress demonstrations, rallies and other such public events. There is one space, Speaker’s Corner, where citizens - but not residents without citizenship - can give speeches without a licence, but discussion of race and religion is prohibited, and public officials can withdraw approval. Three people who organised a peaceful protest at Speaker’s Corner were convicted in 2017. Otherwise, licences for public activities are hardly ever granted, and while there have been some spontaneous protests in recent years, criminal sanctions are in place for unauthorised gatherings, constituting a de facto ban on public protests. Even private meetings have been obstructed, and attempts by non-nationals to organise demonstrations broken up. While an annual LGBTI festival marked its eighth year in 2016, the state called on the many multinational corporate sponsors to cease their support, characterising it as foreign interference; subsequently, the state banned foreign companies from sponsoring events in the park where the festival is held.