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Singapore: Blogger jailed for posting racist remarks

Two Singaporeans accused of posting racist remarks online have been sentenced to jail today, reports ChannelNewsAsia tonight.

Benjamin Koh Seng Huat, 28, was sentenced to one month's jail, and separately, Nicholas Lim Yew, 25, was sentenced to serve one day in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000. Both were charged under Sedition Act.

Earlier, Nicholas Lim was wrongly reported by the media as a blogger. It was later found out that he had actually posted a disparaging comment about Muslims in a web forum for dog-lovers.

However, Benjamin Koh, who works at a kennel taking care of dogs, allegedly made similar racist comments on his blog, Phoenyx Chronicles, on www.upsaid.com. He pleaded guilty to the charge.

In passing sentences, Senior District Judge Richard Magnus said the two had crossed the red line by wantonly breaching the basic ground rules. He said passing a deterrent sentence was necessary so that such offending acts are tackled early and contained.

The judge said callous and reckless remarks on racial or religious subjects had the potential to cause social disorder, regardless of which medium or forum they are expressed, as every Singapore citizen and resident must respect the other races in view of Singapore's multi-racial society.

He added the right of one to propagate an opinion on the Internet is not and cannot be an unfettered right.

The third person, a 17-year-old student blogger, will have his case heard on October 26 . He has earlier been charged on seven counts of promoting ill-will in Singapore under Chapter Section 29 of the Seditious Sedition Act.

It is a known fact that, charged with sedition, Singaporeans face prison terms of up to three years if convicted.

Early responses to today's jail sentence can be found here and here.

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  • John Bishop

    I’m saddened to see my language butchered by Jeff Ooi. Please advise him to enrol on a proper basic English language course.

  • sivaparanjothy

    jeff ooi uses vulgar language to make a point. he is a chinaman with poor control of the english language. yes. i agree he needs to attend adult education classes for english.

    he abuses some readers and wrongly accuses them. look up his reply to one totoro. we do not expect phrases like “dont fart in my blog” from a blogger who won recognition for running a blog.

    i think they should withdraw the award given. it is a disgrace.

  • sivaparanjothy

    I sometimes visit screenshot.com for the news – rather than read the posting by readers and comments by the blogger. The racist remarks may not be explicit but Jeff Ooi does allow remarks which exhibit racial bias.

    He also sometimes resorts to the use of crude language to make a point – which I feel is not necessary. For example, he reprimands a reader for his comments by warning him not to “fart in his blog”. Those were his exact words.

    Can’t he find some other expressions to use. It is not like his control of the English language is that bad – though I agree he needs to take English language courses to improve his communication skills.

  • LC_Teh

    John Bishop,
    YOUR language? Butchered by Jeff Ooi? That’s not new… go, tell that to Professor Higgins.

  • Christine

    Mr Ooi,

    Stumbled upon your post and would like to point out some mistakes to you.

    The mistakes are in paragraph 8 and are as such:
    1 – The Act is known as the Sedition Act and not the Seditious Act;
    2 – The statute is Chapter 290 not Chapter 29 which is the Building Control Act;
    3 – In Singapore, statutes are organised by their chapter numbers and each individual Act has a different chapter number and should be referred to in this manner, the Sedition Act (Cap 290). Referring to it as “Chapter 29 of the Seditious Act” is a fundamental mistake. In terms of grammatical syntax, by referring to it as “Chapter 29 of the Seditious Act”, you seem to be implying that the chapter under which the Singaporeans were charged is within Act. Singapore divides its statutes by sections not chapters.

    If you have your doubts, please refer to the Singapore AG Chambers’ website at http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.jeffooi.com Jeff Ooi

    Dear Christine

    Thank you for pointing out the inaccuracies in my earlier posting.

    I reckon you are referring to this particular blog dated September 19:

    http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/globalvoices/2005/09/19/singapore-cracks-down-on-bloggers/

    In my blog entry, there were several accurate mentions of the word “Sedition Act” in the blog entry. The particular context where you mentioned “Chapter 29 of Seditious Act” is fundamentally incorrect is actually a verbatim reference to a story published on the website of Singapore’s NewPaper, dated September 18.

    The Google archive for the relevant NewPaper story is available here:

    http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:encEottilUEJ:newpaper.asia1.com.sg/printfriendly/0,4139,94646,00.html+blogger+Gan+Huai+Shi&hl=en

    Now that you have kindly pointed out the inaccuracies, I shall make the amendments to reflect the correctness of facts accordingly.

    Thanks.

    Best regards
    Jeff Ooi

  • Christine

    Dear Jeff,

    I stumbled upon this webpage and hadn’t gone further. Thanks for letting me know about the earlier post! =D

    Goodness – to think a newspaper (online or not) would make such a mistake…and a Singaporean one at that! Thanks for pointing me to the link.

    Best regards,
    Christine

  • Christine

    Ehhh… Jeff… my apologies… I didn’t notice the changes in the main text…it was actually my other half who did. There is no section 29 in the Sedition Act (Cap 290) – it stops at section 11. The New Paper made a mistake in the chapter number. The 2 are most likely being charged under a number of sections. So basically, they are being charged under the Sedition Act (Cap 290).

    My apologies for being so unclear – and for being pedantic about about this.

    Best Regards
    Christine

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