An editor of a now-defunct online publication, The Real Singapore (TRS), was sentenced to 10 months’ jail today (Mar 23). The editor, Ai Takagi, an Australian, was convicted for publishing doctored and “patently false” material on the website.
The 23-year-old editor’s husband, Yang Kaiheng, a 27-year-old Singaporean who was the other editor of the website, faces similar charges. Mr Yang however is challenging the charges.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) G Kannan had urged the court to impose a 14-month jail term on Takagi. The DPP said that he had initially intended to press for a 12-month jail term, but increased this to 14 months after realising Takagi was “devoid of genuine remorse” for concocting “scandalous, provocative and racy material” in a bid to increase TRS’ following and garner “enormous” advertising revenue.
Takagi agreed that she didn’t regret running the website, which published crowd-sourced articles without a high degree of editorial control. “Regret would be the wrong word,” she said.
“If I could have I would have liked to have a bit more editing of content to sort of avoid risks. It probably would have made everything easier but in terms of setting up a website where people can air their grievances I don’t think that there’s anything really wrong with that still,” she added.
Takagi pleaded guilty to four counts of sedition on Mar 8.The Court saw that the duo from TRS had pocketed A$474,594.56 (S$492,500) from advertisement revenue for the period December 2013 to April 2015.
TRS which published mainly crowd-sourced articles, was shut down in May last year after the website was accused of publishing four articles likely to “promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different groups of people in Singapore”. One of the four articles wrongly identified a Filipino family as the cause of an incident during Thaipusam.
DPP Kannan said the court must “safeguard one of the most important and envied characteristics of Singapore” – racial and religious harmony.
Speaking to the Australian press, Takagi said that the charges were “a bit political”, but that she had “sort of already accepted what’s going to happen.”
She said that there were other websites here that do the same thing and arguably have worse content. But that the difference between TRS and the other websites was, TRS featured a lot of anti-government complaints.
“There’s a bit of a double standard,” Takagi said.
Singapore’s sedition laws has been described as being archaic which has no place in modern democracy by several free media advocates. Singapore ranks at 150 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ latest Press Freedom Index.
The country ranked 150 out of 180 on Reporters Without Borders’ latest Press Freedom Index.
Takagi is pregnant and also cares for Yang’s paralysed father, Mr Choo Zhengxi, Takagi’s lawyer revealed in Court today.
The soon-to-be mother delivered a public apology in court, saying she is sincerely sorry for the harm she caused. “I was not fully aware of the level of sensitivity needed,” she said, adding that she will be “more careful with my conduct”.
Takagi may deliver her child while serving her prison time.