Two Singapore bloggers have been charged under the Sedition Act for posting racist comments online. The last time the Sedition Act was invoked in Singapore was at least 10 years ago. Twenty-seven-year-old Benjamin Koh Song Huat and 25-year-old Nicholas Lim Yew are being accused of posting racist comments on an online forum and their blogs. They are currently out on bail of SGD10,000 each.
This is the Channel NewsAsia (CNA) report: Two bloggers charged under Sedition Act over racist remarks.
“This charge came as a shock to many in the blogging community.
Said Singaporean blogger Benjamin Lee (Mr Miyagi): ‘A lot of them will be looking at their blogs and wondering if they made any legally seditious remarks. I think because of the way this will be played up, it's negative publicity for the Singapore blogging community.’
“‘Currently if you surf the net you will come across a lot of bloggers making such comments. You will probably see a drop in such cases henceforth. At the moment I am not aware of any cases except of a case in Iran where bloggers are charged. But Iran has a different legal system from Singapore,’ said Leonard Loo, managing partner of Leonard Loo & Co Advocates & Solicitors.”
The issue also made it onto the U.S. techno-news blog Slashdot, with popular Singaporean blogger Mr Miyagi mentioned in one of the comments. The comments on Slashdot have been fast and furious and, to quote Singapore Angle, “most of it very…American.”
And it seems that some Americans have not forgotten the caning of Michael Fay's backside, or our infamous chewing gum laws.
Here are some of the reactions from the online communities:
Moderator of popular Singapore Delphi Forum Sammyboy's Alfresco Coffee Shop says: “Based on the the list, just about every mother's son and daughter who has ever posted any messages here will soon be in jail.”
Singapore blogger based in Hongkong, Little Cart Noodles, says:
“I long for the day when Singaporeans can engage in active debate over social and national issues, and question the Government, without fear of persecution, direct or indirect.
But for now, the idiots who insult my Malay friends can fry.”
Singapore Angle, says:
“My gut feeling is that the unhappiness that is bound to be generated will be driven by the lack of transparency. People are going to ask: “Just what did the two post that make them deserving of such a serious charge?” And if the details are not forthcoming–as they usually are not–non-netizens will simply do the easy thing and draw the worse conclusions–about the morals of “bloggers” and netizens in general, or about the “climate of fear” in Singapore.”
Tym, says “The personal is political”:
“Be personal, be political, certainly be responsible, and pray very hard that no one finds you seditious. Be aware that you can't just say anything, but don't let it stop you from saying the things that need to be said. Be a good citizen. Be engaged. Love your country.
Singapore metablog Tomorrow.sg has a growing list of blogs and sites covering the case.
And e pur si muove has a wiki for this case on his blog too.