Monday, September 12, 2005

Two bloggers charged under Sedition Act

For the first time in Singapore, two bloggers have been charged under the Sedition Act with making racist remarks.

Twenty-five-year-old Nicholas Lim Yew faces two charges and 27-year-old Benjamin Koh Song Huat faces three. A subordinate court was told that both their blogs had racist content, which sparked off a heated discussion online.

The charges read that Lim had, on 16 and 17 June 2005, posted racist remarks on a web forum.

Koh was alleged to have done the same on 12, 15 and 17 June on another website.

In doing so, they are alleged to have committed an act which had a seditious tendency.
Another singaporean blogger, Coybow Caleb says: "The Intarweb is a public place, and as such if you have nothing nice to say then shut the hell up." No other singaporean blogger seems to have commented upon this as yet.

For my part, I have no idea what the comments were, but I can bring you through the legislation: (irrelevant portions deleted)

s4 of the Sedition Act (the "Act") states that any person who to does any act which has a seditious tendency; utters any seditious words; or prints, publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or reproduces any seditious publication shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction for a first offence to be fined up to S$5,000, or jailed up to three years, or both.

s3(1) of the Act defines seditious tendency as a tendency to raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore; or to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.

The bloggers might be saved by s3(2), which states that (this is set out in full) any act, speech, words, publication or other thing shall not be deemed to be seditious by reason only that it has a tendency
(a) to show that the Government has been misled or mistaken in any of its measures;
(b) to point out errors or defects in the Government or the Constitution as by law established or in legislation or in the administration of justice with a view to the remedying of such errors or defects;
(c) to persuade the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure by lawful means the alteration of any matter in Singapore; or
(d) to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore,
if such act, speech, words, publication or other thing has not otherwise in fact a seditious tendency.
I'm sure that in the course of time someone will point to what exactly these seditious comments are: except that they might have already been deleted, because under s4 of the Act it is also an offence to publish or reproduce (see above). If I owned the site that comment was pasted on, and in view of the charges against the commentees, I would delete the comment as soon as possible.

Of course anyone who reproduces the comments of those charged are probably saved by S3(2) of the Act.

[Source: Channel NewsAsia, 12/09/2005]