Singaporean Blogger Amos Yee Faces Charges for Insulting Religion

Amos Yee

A teenage blogger in Singapore, who was jailed last year for making distasteful comments about Christianity and posting offensive images online, is now facing new charges. Amos Yee, 17, was arrested for a second time on May 11 but released immediately on a bail of $5,000. Five of the charges being faced by Yee are for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims, one for hurting the religious sentiments of Christians and two more for apparently failing to appear at Jurong Police Division on two earlier occasions. The first six fall under Section 298 of Singapore’s Penal Code and the two others under Section 174.

Asking the judge to set an early date for Yee’s trial, deputy public prosecutor Kelvin Kow said the teenager “is obviously escalating his offensive behaviour in a bid to gain attention. He has upped both the tempo and offensiveness of his posts.”

Even though the prosecution did not oppose Yee being out on bail, Kow asked the judge to warn him of the possible consequences if he continues committing similar offences while still out on bail.

To that, Yee responded, “If the prosecution insists, no problem.”

While Yee has not yet sought the help of a lawyer, he said he would do his best to find a solution to the problem. If found guilty of purposely hurting the religious sentiments of others, Yee would face up to three years in jail as well as a hefty fine. He currently faces a month of imprisonment and a fine of $1,500 for failing to appear at Jurong Police Division despite court orders.

Yee started gaining global attention last year after a social media campaign alerted Western media of his case. The teenage blogger’s videos on his YouTube channel Brain and Butter focus on refuting religion with the help of his own understanding of the Bible or the Quran. His channel, which currently has more than 54,000 subscribers, regularly receives more than a quarter of a million views per video. A growing campaign led by his supporters on Facebook and Twitter has now raised the public profile of his case.

In an interview with American talk show host Dave Rubin, Yee discussed the new charges he is facing, claiming that the Singaporean government is targeting him because he is considered a “political threat”. He linked the recent developments with prior charges that saw him being jailed for 55 days last year. At the time, he gained some amount of media attention when Amnesty International opposed the Singaporean government’s decision to try him as an adult. Yee said the government was now making use of his videos on religion because they could not take him down last year for mocking politicians, which was inevitably going to draw widespread international condemnation.

When asked about the laws concerning freedom of speech and expression in Singapore as compared to America or Europe, Yee said, “There is a constitution in Singapore which allows freedom of speech, it’s article 14 but in that constitution itself in clause two it says ‘we have freedom of speech but there are restrictions to freedom of speech, even if it breaks the public harmony or is provocative or whatever’ and that completely fucking defeats the purpose of freedom of speech.”

As with any other provocative social media figure or campaign, Yee is not without his fair share of haters. In a region that seems extremely religious, Yee’s videos have stirred up a lot of negative comments. For example, the Facebook page titled Petition to Free Amos Yee has attracted as many negative comments as positive ones, with most of them being leveled against Yee’s unique expletive-laden style of delivery.

Photo Credits: The Straits Times

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