KENNETH JEYARETNAM: HOW TO EXERCISE FREE SPEECH & AVOID SEDITION IN S'PORE

The editors of the The Real Singapore, Ai Takagi and Yang Kaiheng, have been charged with sedition for stirring up ill will between Singaporeans and foreigners. Takagi has already pleaded guilty to four counts whilst her husband is claiming trial.

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Many of us Singaporeans are still unsure what sedition actually is even when we know it’s a law left over on the statute books from the British colonial oppression. The common law understanding of sedition is of a political crime or speech threatening to overthrow the State by unlawful means. Singapore’s Sedition Act departs from common law understanding in several distinct ways one of which includes “the promotion of feelings of ill will or hostility between races or classes…” Whilst the alleged editors of TRS mostly upset the feelings of PRC Chinese and Filipinos, this expansion of the Sedition Act is more often used to protect the sensibilities of Malays who are largely Muslim. This stems from Article 152 of the Constitution which protects our Malay Singaporeans as the indigenous people of Singapore and Islam as their religion.

It is important to remember that the Right to Free Speech which is guaranteed to us by Article 14 of the Constitution does not exist as a stand alone right in Singapore. Free Speech is not in fact free but is restricted by eight grounds one of which is Sedition. For bloggers and netizens in our beloved Republic not knowing the definitions can be rather risky. When you cross the blurry line you can end up facing criminal and/or civil charges. Sedition carries a maximum fine of S$5,000 and up to 3 years in jail.

Luckily I can now shed some light on the mystery of Sedition Singapore style. Hopefully this will keep you all safe whilst you post rabid thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress at one 0′ clock in the morning. Here is my foolproof guide to staying out of jail. You are welcome!

Click on the link below to read more.

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