07 October 2005

Two Bloggers Jailed

Well, the first two sedition cases are over.
Oct 7, 2005
Two jailed for racist postings on the Internet

TWO men were sentenced to jail on Friday for posting racist remarks about Muslims on the Internet in the first case of its kind here.

Nicholas Lim Yew, 25, and Benjamin Koh Song Huat, 27, were charged under the Sedition Act for promoting 'feelings of ill will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore' on the Internet.

On Friday, Koh was sentenced to jail for a month and Lim for a day. Lim was also fined S$5,000.
The maximum sentence for first-time convicts under the Sedition Act is 3 years' imprisonment and $5,000 fine. As Mr Wang previously explained, maximum sentences for any crime are rarely imposed, and are used only in the most severe of cases. And as Mr Wang predicted, the two bloggers here received nothing close to the maximum.

Still the question which everyone will be discussing is whether the sentences actually imposed, in these two cases, were too drastic anyway.
Lim, an assistant marketing manager, allegedly posted anti-Muslim remarks on an online forum for dog lovers in Singapore - www.doggiesite.com.

Koh, who works at a kennel, was said to have made similar racist comments on his blog, Phoenyx Chronicles, on several occasions.

During sentencing, senior district judge Richard Magnus said Koh's comments, which contained vulgarities, were 'particularly vile'.
There is considerable disparity between Koh's and Lim's respective sentences. Koh gets a month in jail and Lim gets a day. Lim will be out by tomorrow morning. What this tells you is that although Koh and Lim committed similar offences, Judge Magnus paid careful consideration to the actual remarks that each of them made. Koh apparently made much more extreme remarks and therefore received a heavier sentence.

The Straits Times did not tell us what Koh and Lim actually wrote. In a way, this is a pity, because if bloggers knew what Koh and Lim actually wrote, then bloggers themselves would know what they should not write. As it is, these two cases will produce some unnecessary "chilling effect" on bloggers erring grossly on the side of caution.

On the other hand, the Straits Times probably made a considered decision not to report the specifics of Koh's and Lim's remarks, as these remarks are offensive to begin with, and probably contain words not generally considered polite enought to be printed in a newspaper.