SINGAPORE – 17 year old Singapore blogger Amos Yee has been sentenced to six weeks in jail on September 29 after pleading guilty to six charges of deliberately sharing web content that was “wounding religious feelings” of the Muslims and Christians.
Alongside the jail sentence, Yee was ordered to pay SGD2, 000 in fines for two counts of going against police orders, when he failed to show up at a police division for investigations.
Principal District Judge Ong Hian Sun commented that Yee had “deliberating elected to do harm” when he posted a photograph and two videos online that were described to have “offensive and insulting words and profane gestures to hurt the feelings of Christians and Muslims”.
In a multiracial and multicultural society such as Singapore, this was considered to “undermine the religious harmony in our society,” the judge said. He also added that Yee’s actions could potentially “generate social unrest”, and hopes he will not appear in court for similar offences in the future.
Judge Ong Hian Sun added that Yee is mentally sound to make rational choices in the way he presents himself, and is capable of doing harm or good with his actions and speech. Therefore, it is in the public’s interest that there is zero-tolerance for Yee’s actions.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Hon Yi also highlighted in the trial that Yee had intentions “to profit financially” from the attention gained with such social media postings, which he described as “extremely offensive”.
In an interview he previously gave to Hong Kong Free Press, Yee stated that there were advertisements in the videos he posted. This could mean that Yee was financially motivated to gain higher viewership.
Yee was reported saying the sentence was “very fair”. His defence lawyer N. Kanagavijayan said, “(Yee) is deeply remorseful” of his actions.
This latest trial was brought to the attention of rights groups, who believe that Yee’s case is an example of preventing freedom of expression. Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch suggested that Singapore should review its approach in dealing with cases such as Yee’s.
Yee will begin his sentence on October 13. If Yee fails to pay his fine, he will spend an additional ten days in jail. This is Yee’s second prison sentence in two years.
Yee first made headlines in March 2015 when he was arrested and jailed for four weeks after uploading a YouTube video rant expressing controversial views about Christianity. He was also seen insulting Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew online, shortly after his death.
– Priscilla Lim, Correspondent (Asia: Far East)