One of the founders of the now-defunct The Real Singapore (TRS) website, Yang Kaiheng, has lamented that he is unable to move on with his life, even after he served a jail term for publishing supposedly seditious articles on his website, as he believes that the authorities still hold and spread “unfair” views about his intentions.
Yang’s comments come after news organisations reported on the People’s Action Party (PAP) Policy Forum’s written submission to the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods yesterday, in which the forum asserted that the founders of TRS had spread deliberate online falsehoods to generate revenue.
The forum – an arm of the ruling party that engages the Government on policy matters – had been addressing a report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. The PAP unit slammed the report which called Singapore a “repressive place” that imposed criminal penalties for peaceful speech.
Along with other examples, the HRW report had cited how TRS was charged with sedition, “although none of the posts for which they were prosecuted encouraged any sort of public disorder, much less incited violence or overt discrimination against any particular religion or ethnic group”.
The PAP Policy Forum asserted that the report failed to note that the founders of TRS fabricated “sensational falsehoods” against foreigners to generate advertising revenue. It added: “The TRS case is a classic example of deliberate online falsehoods, which can seriously undermine societal trust, social peace. Does HRW seek to perpetuate such deliberate online falsehoods by using them as reference points?”
Yang responded to a mainstream media news report covering the forum’s views and said that he is “terribly disappointed” and that it is “unfair” of the forum team to insinuate that he purposefully spread falsehoods to make money.
Addressing his comments to the forum itself, Yang said that he has paid his price for not doing his due diligence to check the seditious articles before they were published on his website. He argued that although he pleaded guilty to charges under the Sedition Act, he did not admit to deliberately fabricating articles for money.
The Singaporean, who now runs a ramen stall alongside his wife, said that views such as this – that he deliberately spread falsehoods for money – make it difficult for him to move on with his life. He requested that the forum refrain from spreading such views that he says are not true.
Read his appeal in full here:
“Dear PAP Policy Forum,
“I am the founder of the now defunct TheRealSingapore.com and I went to jail for 8 months by pleading guilty to sedition. I pleaded guilty because I am unable to prove in court that the articles in question does not have seditious tendencies because simi-sai also can be proven to have seditious tendencies.
“However it is unfair for you to say that I deliberately fabricated news that sow discord among religious groups in Singapore just to make money. As you already know the website is generating half a million dollar in revenue every year with users posting and contributing up to 10,000 articles in a year, why would I give up all that “lucrative” money just to fabricate 7 seditious articles which on average made only $116 in advertising revenue?
“I am remorseful and accepted my punishment for not doing due diligence check which resulted in the 8 articles being posted on my website.
“I am terribly dissapointed that after serving my prison sentence I am still unable to move on with my life and one of my customer actually call me up highlighting this article to me. I have a ramen business to run now so I kindly ask that you do not anyhow say things that are not true. Pleading guilty to the sedition act is not the same as admitting to deliberately fabricating articles for money. Thank you.”
This is not the first time Yang has disputed views regarding the case he and his wife were entangled in. Just two months ago, in January this year, Yang slammed Mediacorp’s online news publication TODAY online for publishing “outright false and defamatory” allegations against him and his wife: