Bloggers react to news of charge against 2 for ‘racist rants’
TWO bloggers were charged on Monday under the Sedition Act for allegedly racist comments made on an online forum and on a website. Naturally, this has sent ripples through the blogging community.
â€˜Coup de Graceâ€™ (coupdegras.zenguerrilla.org) reflects one immediate reaction of bloggers just hours after news broke. Since his own blog entries have â€œspoken out against Singaporeâ€™s version of affirmative action, does that make me liable to charges?â€ he asks.
Arguing that the legal action would â€œstifleâ€ beneficial expression and debate, he describes the sections of the Sedition Act under which the bloggers were charged as â€œdisturbing [sic] vagueâ€.
Indeed, it was the first time several bloggers had ever heard of the term â€˜seditionâ€™ or the Sedition Act. The introduction was a little confusing for some.
Singaporean â€œZeenieâ€ (zeenie.blogspot.com) reveals: â€œThe only (other) time I’ve heard the word â€˜seditionâ€™ used was in (the movie) Last of the Mohicans.â€
Those curious enough started looking up the Act online (statutes.agc.gov.sg).
Blogger â€œJeff Yenâ€ (jeffyen.blogspot.com), 29, who was one such, admits he â€œalso didnâ€™t know at first what â€˜seditionâ€™ meantâ€, and looking up its definition confused him a little â€“ since, he writes, â€œâ€˜Seditionâ€™ actually means words or actions that make people rebel against authority.â€
Student â€œAgagoogaâ€ (gssq.blogspot.com) also asks: â€œAm I the only one who still doesnâ€™t really get what a â€œseditious tendencyâ€ is? If itâ€™s anything that raises discontent or disaffection, or promotes feelings of ill-will and hostility, how does that differ from any number of casual remarks made by a person… in the course of a given day?â€
â€œDavidâ€ (rocklah.com), a national serviceman in his 20s, says the fact that people can be arrested â€œfor voicing their opinionâ€ strikes fear into him. â€œPeople may argue that if I play by the rules, Iâ€™ll be fine. But, who determines the rules?â€
Others question if the use of the law is a double-edged sword. Shanghai-based Canadian blogger Myrick (asiapundit.com) observes: â€œThis doesnâ€™t solve the problem of racism, it forces it underground to fester.â€
But, perhaps in anticipation of an avalanche of pro-free speech hyperbole from other bloggers reacting to the case, â€˜Alee Jâ€™ (aleej.com), a University of Bristol law student, notes that Singapore isnâ€™t the only country with limits on free speech.
â€œSomehow, people tend to forget that even the nations that are, purportedly, the greatest supporters of free speech and democracy have similar measures to our Sedition Act in place.â€
â€˜Alee Jâ€™ also holds the view that the bloggers charged in court on Monday should have followed this simple maxim: â€œFreedom of speech is a tool that must be exercised judiciously and with great caution, as with any tool of great power.
â€œIt is not a shield that one should be able to cower under should comments be made that it does not cover. This is not merely a local concept … clearly, if these lads had followed the same approach they wouldnâ€™t have been indicted.â€
Mr Miyagi a.k.a. Benjamin Lee, has been entertaining blog readers for a year at www.miyagi.sg, and never offends or insults anyone with his innocuous blog posts.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS:
Section 3.1 of the Sedition Act defines a â€œseditious tendencyâ€ as a tendency toâ€¦
(a) bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the Government;
(b) excite the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore to attempt to procure in Singapore, the alteration, otherwise than by lawful means, of any matter as by law established;
(c) bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against the administration of justice in Singapore;
(d) raise discontent or disaffection amongst the citizens of Singapore or the residents in Singapore;
(e) promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore.
WHAT BLOGGERS SAY:
Some off-the-cuff tips on how to avoid being accused of seditionâ€¦
â€œModerate your words online in such a way that they express your feelings but arenâ€™t completely disrespectful or insulting.â€
Michael Chua (michaelchua.blogspot.com):
â€œIf we donâ€™t want to get into trouble, then steer clear of those of topics.â€
Cowboy Caleb (cowboycaleb.liquidblade.com):
â€œThe (Web) is a public place, and as such if you have nothing nice to say then shut the hell up.â€
â€œBetter by far to stick to infantility, I say.â€
â€œBe personal, be political, certainly be responsible, and pray very hard that no one finds you seditious.â€