Committee to Protect Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the arrest on Sunday [March 29,2015] of a teenage video blogger in Singapore and calls on authorities to release him immediately.

Singapore police arrested Amos Yee, a teenage video blogger, according to a statement released by authorities on Monday. According to the government-aligned daily newspaper Straits Times, at least 20 public complaints had been filed to the police since Friday that called for Lee to be investigated.

The complaints were in connection with an eight-minute video Yee posted on YouTube on Friday in which he criticized the policies and political heritage of the late Lee Kuan Yew. The video, called “Lee Kuan Yew is Finally Dead!,” has been taken down from Yee’s YouTube channel, but is available on other channels.

In the video, Yee also compared Lee to Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Jesus Christ. News reports citing police said that Yee’s arrest was due to the religious comments, which are tightly restricted by the government.

“The arrest of a young blogger for comments made in a video highlights the restrictive environment in which Singaporean journalists are forced to work,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “We call on authorities to release Amos Yee immediately and to undertake reform of Singapore’s outdated laws restricting the media.”

Police said Yee would be charged on Tuesday with “deliberate intention of wounding the religious or racial feelings of any person,” “putting into circulation” an obscene object, and “threatening, abusive or insulting communication” under the city-state’s newly enacted Protection from Harassment Act, Agence France-Presse reported. If convicted, Yee faces time in jail, a fine, or both.

Lee Kuan Yew, who died on March 23, held government power for three decades. Over the years, he and his family sued and won damages in Singapore courts or settlements with media outlets. New regulations in Singapore are aimed at reining in Internet-based news outlets and defamation suits are logged against bloggers who question the judiciary or investigate state financial bodies, according to CPJ research. Bloggers play a crucial role in Singapore, where most of the country’s media are directly or indirectly controlled by the government, and self-censorship is prevalent, CPJ data show.