Website duo in trouble over inflammatory posts

The New Paper has reported that the duo arrested by police are Mr Robin Yang and Ms Ai Takagi. The couple are believed to be two of the founders of The Real Singapore website, which was set up in 2012.

Two persons believed to be behind socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) have been arrested under the Sedition Act for inflammatory postings related to a recent incident during the Thaipusam procession.

Police said in a statement yesterday that they have arrested a 26-year-old Chinese Singaporean man and a 22-year-old Australian woman for posting remarks online "that could promote ill will and hostility among the different races in Singapore".

They did not further identify the duo, who are out on bail.

But The New Paper reported yesterday that they are Ms Ai Takagi and her boyfriend Robin Yang Kai Heng, who were spotted leaving the Police Cantonment Complex on Monday.

They are believed to be two of the site's founders.

TRS wrote on its site yesterday that one of its editors involved in the running of the site had been called up for investigations by police, along with four others.

It added that "she is currently cooperating fully with the police".

The arrests were prompted by a Feb 4 article on TRS alleging that a Filipino family's complaint over noise from drummers led to a scuffle during the Thaipusam procession on Feb 3.

Three Singaporeans were later charged over disorderly behaviour.

But the article's original writer reportedly distanced herself from the published version.

Police said yesterday that they received reports on Feb 5 about an "insensitive article" online. After extensive checks, they identified the suspects, who were arrested the next day.

If found guilty under the Sedition Act, a first-time offender can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed for up to three years, or both.

"Police take a stern view of acts that could threaten social harmony in Singapore. Any person who posts remarks online that could cause ill will and hostility between the different races or communities in Singapore will be dealt with in accordance with the law," added the police.

In the aftermath of the scuffle during Thaipusam, videos of the incident were circulated by netizens, who raised questions over the ban on music during the procession that has been in place since 1973.

Yesterday, TRS said it will post "a full story" some time in the future. It added that this might include how the site works and who is behind it, but "currently, as investigations are ongoing, such a full response would be inappropriate".

TRS is known to carry articles that hit out at various aspects of Singapore society, painting a bleak picture of it, with some postings said to fan xenophobia.

But TRS said investigations are focused on the Thaipusam article, and no other articles are coming under scrutiny at the moment.

The arrests are the latest case of individuals being taken to task for seditious online content in nearly two years.

The previous known case of sedition over online postings was when cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested in April 2013 for an online comic strip about how a government suppressed its Malay population. After investigations, the Attorney-General's Chambers decided to take no further action.

TRS was founded in 2012 but has remained tight-lipped about those behind it. One founder is systems engineer Alex Tan, who told The Straits Times in 2013 that he started the site with a couple he had never met, but whom he believed lived in Australia.

The couple had identified themselves to him as Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi, Mr Tan had said.

asyiqins@sph.com.sg
amirh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 19, 2015.
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