The Return of the Sedition Act for the Internet
The Sedition Act has made its comeback. The last time it was used was in 2008 when a Christian couple deliberately distributed Christian material to Muslims for conversion purposes. The sentece was 8 weeks jail. However, it was the Internet that paved the way for the Sedition Act to reappear as deterrence and punishment in 2005. In three cases that year, three individuals were charged with the Sedition Act for making anti-Malay and anti-Muslim Internet postings. The sentences were a day in jail and fine, a month in jail and one 24 months of community work. Hence, being charged and sentenced under the Sedition Act is not as horrible as being charged under vandalism or
This week, cartoonist Leslie Chew from Demon-cratic was charged with the Sedition Act supposedly for his comic insinuating that the PAP government was racist and marginalised the Malay community. Leslie might be a mediocre comic artist and his comics are not slick compared to My Sketchbook or Cartoon Press, and even quite one-sided with a huge dosage of populist naivety e.g. when he dumbed down the foreign labour argument.
However, although he is a so-so and shallow political commentator, he is not seditious, compared to those sentenced in 2005 and 2008. Even Amy Cheong , who was let off with a warning, was more seditious than Leslie as Amy was outright racist in her comments.
The writing is clear on the wall that the regime wanted to warn its critics in the Internet like Leslie Chew that while they may not be sued as being sued is historically mainly the privilege of members from the opposition, there are various Acts that can be brandished to make them cower. With Leslie in the gibbet, they just might be intimidated into watching what they write, draw and even share online.
Oddly and ironically, Leslie has gotten his justice and getting back at the regime. Due to his predicament now, he is more popular than before and all the more people would want to read his comics however simple and shallow they are. He is now the cartoonist that was singled out for intimidation, yet another Rebel “endorsed” by the regime.
Leslie is charged under the Sedition Act and many would wait to see what his sentencing would be compared to those sentenced under this Act before him in 2005 and 2008. Would he be assigned community work, a token fine, or something more dire like a jail sentence even if it was a day?