Singapore to Jail Teenage Blogger

Singapore to Jail Teenage Blogger
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Controversial Singaporean blogger Amos Yee has been sentenced 38 days in prison for ‘intending to wound religious feelings.’

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Singaporean blogger Amos Yee (余澎杉) says he will be jailed for 38 days after pleading guilty to charges of intending to wound religious feelings.

The 17-year-old, who was in court last month, faced six charges of intending to wound the feelings of Muslims or Christians and two counts of failing to report to police for investigation.

The charges for wounding religious feelings relate to comments and posts made on his blog, video blog and Facebook account, and could have him jailed for up to three years.

Yee, who was also imprisoned last year, said on Twitter earlier today that his prison term will start on Oct. 13.

He spent about 50 days in a Singapore jail last year having been found guilty of wounding religious feelings and posting a video and an obscene image online – the doctored image depicted former Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

He was described by the BBC in 2015 as “the enfant terrible who has fascinated and infuriated Singaporeans ever since he was arrested in March [2015] over a YouTube video.” The video, which is titled “Lee Kuan Yew Is Finally Dead,” openly criticizes the legacy of Singapore’s founding father and longtime leader. He also criticized Christianity.

Singapore Teen's Video
Photo Credit: AP/達志影像
Singapore teen blogger Amos Yee, center, speaks to reporters while leaving the Subordinate Courts after being released on bail, Tuesday, May 12, 2015, in Singapore.

Yee’s latest case has attracted widespread attention, including from the United Nations, and sparked some debate in the U.S. about international "hate speech" laws.

Before the hearing started, David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, commented, “International human rights law allows only serious and extreme instances of incitement to hatred to be prohibited as criminal offences, not other forms of expression, even if they are offensive, disturbing or shocking.”

Kaye also voiced concern that the proceedings against Yee was part of a “widening crackdown,” not only on controversial expression but also political criticism and dissent.

“Threats of criminal action and lawsuits contribute to a culture of self-censorship, and hinder the development of an open and pluralistic environment where all forms of ideas and opinions should be debated and rebutted openly,” Kaye said.

New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) said Kaye’s comments effectively narrowed the definition of "hate speech" under international law.

“With this latest opinion, the Special Rapporteur is removing satirical videos and language of the type used by Mr. Yee from the vague and widely-abused concept of ‘hate speech,’” HRF president Thor Halvorssen said.

First Editor: Olivia Yang
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole