Pointing To Blatant Biases Of Freelance Journalist Kirsten Han: ‘How Singapore Abuses Its Hate Speech Law’ In Re Amos Yee Et Al.
Ma’am, your recent piece in the SEA-Globe mag, headlined “How Singapore is abusing its laws on ‘hate speech'”, betrays glaring personal biases and cracks in journalistic integrity. In a word, I’m disappointed. Without further ado, allow me to descend into the particulars.
1. Guilty of perpetuating fake image in said article: immediately under the strapline, features the now notoriously haunting meme of Amos leaving the courthouse with parents in tow. He appeared disheveled and disoriented, terrified and traumatized, cradling himself for dear life, grimacing the while. Already, this notorious meme is known to those who follow the news closely to be nothing but a classic case of media manipulation by Amos — both Amos and his mother have since commented on and debunked that pathetically contrived act of pathos projected in the picture; both have separately acknowledged in so many words the theatrical optics of that feigned anguished looks intended for public consumption. [ http://www.theindependent.sg/amos-yees-mom-i-encouraged-him-to-leave-singapore/
] There are 2 possible explanations then: either you’re ignorant of the facts as they evolved or you’re being disingenuous with its inclusion for presentation.
2. Biased underreporting: in your above article, you were guilty of selective omission. In your reporting, you did echo some of Amos’ highly offensive words uttered in his 2016 publicity-seeking stunts, but you omitted, by design, mention of his most certainly profoundly repulsive antics of defiling the Quran depicted in the now universally condemned meme of his simulated fornication with the holy book. His commission of such unholy outrage were it left unchecked could have redounded to a fatwa of death for him if Charlie Hebdo was anything to go by.
3. Defining ‘hate speech’ is like defining hard-core porn: an American jurist once famously commented, ‘I know it when I see it’ with respect to hard-core pornography. This perhaps is an area we’re in concurrence that by its multifarious character, the definition and hence the application of ‘hate speech’ law can be broad and even nebulous. Term it as you like, ‘hate speech law’, ‘harmony law’ or ‘sedition act’; just about all democracies have a version of it in place with the conspicuous exception of America where displaying the bloodied severed head of Prez Trump in caricature is considered fair game of late. So let’s go down the list of what you deem abuses by the Singapore gov. of its ‘hate speech’ law to get a better sense of just how justified your beefs are:
i) Obviously, we disagree on the 2016 prosecution of Amos for his outrageous shenanigans. To be clear, in my book, his 6-week sentence was overly lenient for a willful recidivist. He did, after all, receive lenient treatment, being vouchsafed home incarceration for the remaining half of his sentence … a year prior to that back in 2015, I did opine that his 2015 convictions (for his symbolic spitting at LKY’s funeral) were a mistake; it was a consequence of official overreactions at several levels. The then error in his trial conviction notwithstanding, did not equate to some nefariously state-orchestrated abuse/persecution to merit the teenager asylum. [ https://lester978.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/an-open-letter-to-judge-jasvender-kaur-following-her-ruling-on-amos-yee/ ]
ii) Concerning the fine of $4000 (or $2900 per your report?) imposed on the foreign imam from India for his insidiously incendiary non-Koranic verses in supplication — who was subsequently deported back home — are you insinuating that his punishment was unwarranted, that he be allowed to do what he did unmolested? Prof K Aljunied who supported the imam received a temporary suspension from his campus employer and Terence Nunis who exposed the imam on his FB page was made to apologize for his failure to first report the matter to the Police. If there was any unfair treatment dispensed here — which is a far cry from any sins of overzealous abuse by the authority — it was to Mr. Nunis who was the unsung hero in the episode. [ https://lester978.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/my-take-on-the-terrence-nunis-mosque-video-controversy/ ]
iii) Regarding the clampdown on TRS (The Real Singapore) — the online fake news purveyor — its debarment was justified for the obvious reason of its pretending to be what it was not. The husband-and-wife duo were charged under the Sedition Act (the more serious section of the penal code than the ‘harmony law’ under which Amos was charged) and were sentenced to 8 and 10 months respectively. (Incidentally, I would have no issue with the trial Judge sentencing the 3-month pregnant wife to home incarceration were that the case).
iv) The final 2 examples you cited for the premise in your write-up that Singapore gov. abuses its ‘hate speech’ law, pertain to homophobic statements made by Prof K Aljunied and Mr. Bryan Lim Sian Yang. The former received a severe warning from the authority for equating homosexuality to ‘diseases’ and his urging that ‘these cancers be stopped in their tracks’. The latter was fined $2500 for thundering threat online to ‘open fire’ on the gay community. Again, I’m puzzled by your vagueness of implication here: are you suggesting that they should be punished with jail sentences à la Amos for their one-off utterances? Amos was given every opportunity time and again to retract which he refused; Amos was bent on making an Internet career for himself predicated on insulting and profaning the religion of some 1.6 billion faithful who regard their religious icons more seriously than the others; Amos in all likelihood would be dead by now if the authorities were to blithely turn a blind eye and leave him to his own devices.
In fine, I’ll let the discerning readers decide for themselves whether you made your case for your article’s headline.