19 Jul 2006

Char's Case Dismissed

The case against Singaporean blogger 'Char', who has been undergoing police investigations for the violation of the Sedition Act, has been called off. Student Gayle Goh's latest entry in her blog stated that a friend of 'Char' had mentioned to her that the Deputy Public Prosecutor's office has dismissed the case.

The report has not been independently verified nor has it reached the mainstream press in Singapore.

A growing online community has recently prompted the pro-government Straits Times to run a feature story of citizen journalism. Gayle Goh's report could very well mark a milestone in breaking a news story.


SINGAPORE: Blogger who posted cartoons of Christ online being investigated

Blogger could go to prison for posting Jesus Cartoons

Blogger hauled up over Christ cartoons

SINGAPORE: Divided views over police checks on blogger

Much ado about citizen journalism


Blogger 'Char': Case Dismissed by DPP Office

I am in contact with someone who knows Char personally, and I was intrigued to hear it mentioned over dinner that his case had been dismissed by the Deputy Public Prosecutor's office. This means that the charges no longer stand, and Char is now able to put this whole stressful episode behind him for the better. I was surprised that the news had not made it to the mainstream media, and I did feel that the public should know. There was a wave of concern about the affair when it was first reported on June 14 which was likely instrumental in hurrying the case along to the DPP's office where it was dropped in about three weeks, on July 6th. Previously, the case had been pending since February, when the charges were first made. This is all information I gained when I requested Char's handphone number through our mutual contact and gave him a call, asking him for permission (that I received) to make the news public on this blog. After his referral and more research I found that he had already released a brief note about the case dismissal through Gabriel Seah's blog, and I was surprised that the issue had not received more publicity, which I felt it deserved -- let me explain why.

Late last month, I wrote this article urging the charges to be dropped. I was only one in a great number of bloggers in addition to mainstream press agencies who had picked up on the story. This was coming on the wave of concern that the Sedition Act was being used to prosecute more bloggers along the themes of racial and religious divisions in society. In a day and age where Singaporeans are increasingly worried about our levels of online freedom, and particularly in the wake of the mr brown incident, I thought it important to point out that thankfully, the DPP office saw sense and reason, and decided to let him off with a warning from the police. We need to note the incidents where this reason prevails, and the freedom of online expression is allowed to win over, in order to remain clear-headed about the direction of our own discourse and how Singaporean legislation relates to it.

Online commentary is gaining purpose and momentum, and can only continue to do so given the government's response. Despite the sinister tone of 'light touch', the government has to date kept to its promise of not initiating any kind of crackdown on bloggers. It is important that we not conflate issues, as is convenient to do, and allow the incidents where bloggers do suffer reprimands (the racist bloggers, Char, and most recently, mr brown) to cow us into tempering our online expression. Despite the nebulous nature of OB markers, here is a certain predictability about how the government operates that we are able to assemble from precedent. Racial and religious attacks are OB. Political disagreement is not. Mainstream media is OB. Blogs are not. Even Lee Boon Yang is careful to reinforce this message:

Mr brown's comment was not posted in his blog. If he had posted the same comment on his blog, we'll treat it as part of the internet chatter and we would have just let it be! But he didn't post it - he wrote it and published it in a mainstream newspaper! That's the difference!"

-- Dr Lee Boon Yang

Disagree as I might with the mr brown incident and MICA's response, I will say one thing for them: they're not changing their tune. It is my express wish that we are able to discern this, and not fall into the trap of seeing it as some kind of crackdown on bloggers, as this article seems to do.

Learning about the dismissal of Char's case only convinces me further of this. Let's give credit where it's due :) for now at least, the authorities are pretty much giving bloggers online freedom -- even where the lines are blurred and there is potential violation of established law and precedent regarding sensitive religious issues, regarding Char's case. What we do with that rare freedom is our chance to show how powerfully responsible, and responsibly powerful, the community can be.

I hope that mr brown, distressed as he may be due to the unexpected suspension of his column, does not shy away from continuing to voice his opinions freely on his blog, as already Lee Boon Yang, on the record and for all to hear, has given him license to do. Majulah blogosphere, yadda, yadda.

Link to the offending cartoon.

Posted at 12:15 am by gaylegoh

1 comment:

soci said...

It has been verified.