Posted June 5, 2008 9:12 am by with 16 comments

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I’m all for freedom of speech, but does it seem to you that us "bloggers" are getting just a little too big for our boots?

I ask, because there seems to be some kind of uproar over a US blogger in Singapore, who was arrested and released on bail after taunting a judge.

According to a court document, [Gopalan] Nair is charged with insulting Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean last week by sending an email which said she "was throughout prostituting herself during the entire proceedings, by being nothing more than an employee of Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his son and carrying out their orders".

Like I said, go ahead and make your voice heard, but don’t assume that there’s some shiny blogger badge that you can wave, like a diplomatic immunity card. Especially when you happen to be in a nation that’s already proven to value its stability over your free speech.

And, if you publicly taunt said nation, what the heck do you expect?

On Saturday Nair had taunted authorities in a post on his blog, saying he was in Singapore at a particular hotel, and gave his phone number.

"I am now within your jurisdiction… What are you going to do about it?" wrote Nair, a former Workers’ Party candidate for parliament.

  • Andy, bloggers do have power when they join forces on an issue! Of course that power should not be abused, and used to help people.

    I do not know the whole story so it makes it hard to comment, but if the judge abused her power in treating a particular issue, he has his rights to alert the blogger’s community about it!

    But sending a direct email insulting a judge could be seen as harassment, so this is a gray zone!

    Igor The Troll’s last blog post..China earthquake Twitter Robert Scoble

  • @Igor – I believe he published the same email comments on his blog. I just get the sense that as bloggers, we’re starting to get an inaccurate sense of invincibility.

  • I guess he found out what the government was going to do about him violating their rules while in their jurisdiction.

    Not just bloggers. Everyone who travels abroad needs to recognize not all governments offer free speech protections. Power to the people (right on) and all that, but for cryin’ out loud, exercise some common sense.

    Diane Aull’s last blog post..Do You Yelp?

  • Gopalan Nair was taunting the Singapore government and in particular Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Kuan Yew, to come and arrest him. He even gave them his telephone number and address.

    He has now been charged with Sedition which could result in three years in prison. It is usually only applied to those inciting racist and religious hatred/intolerance. It can however be applied to those threatening the ‘security’ of the nation of Singapore.

    This charge simply adds to the intimidation of bloggers and Internet users who express themselves about Singapore’s political life.

    “Nair denied having emailed the judge and said that all his publications on the trial hearings were posted on his blog. He had particularly criticised the final day of the trial, during which Lee Kuan Yew reportedly said that he wanted to sue all Internet users who were guilty of defaming him online.” []

    So the threat of jail is not just targeted at one blogger but all who dare to criticise the Lee’s interpretation of politics in Singapore.

    Exercise common sense – yes
    But when does common sense become ‘self-censorship’ out of fear?

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  • Greyheyn

    Nair has stated via his lawyer that he has not sent an email directly to the judge. By the way, you have quoted news from the controlled Singapore mainstream media which is currently ranked 154th out of 195 countries in the 2007 Freedom of the World Press Ranking.

  • Chung-Wei Lee

    Greyheyn: I believe Andy quoted the news from AFP and not from the Singapore mainstream media.

    Bloggers has to be responsible for their words. Just because they are behind a monitor don’t give them the rights to insult or provide information which are misleading.

    Freedom of speech doesn’t mean speaking (blogging) without common sense. By challenging the government on their home ground, what does Nair really expect them to do?

    Bloggers should be careful of what they write because with the Internet, news travel really fast and far as seen from the new article.

  • @Chung-Wei Lee – totally agree. Go ahead an express your freedom of speech, just don’t assume you’ll a) actually have the freedom, or b) get away with it simply because you’re a blogger.

  • I think that something bloggers (and most people) need to learn to appreciate is that life is a series of trade-offs, and when it comes to your opinions, you can either say what you want, or get what you want (by keeping your mouth shut and focusing no influencing others) because if there’s anything I learned in college it’s that if you want to convince someone that THEY’RE right, all you have to do is argue with them.

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  • I personally believe that irrespective of the merit of the case, the post was in poor taste. If he is not a citizen of Singapore, this is even more so. Perhaps it is better if they find a psychiatrist to attend to him.

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  • Bloggers are regular people and have the same rights.

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  • JT

    The point being missed here is that US and Singapore Lawyer Gopalan Nair is an old political opponent of Lee Kuan Yew and Gopalan experienced political oppression from Mr. Lee many years ago when he was running for Singapore office.

    Anyone that looks at the facts of the Singapore political world knows that Lee Kuan Yew is a dictator that holds fake elections and bankrupts and/or imprisons any serious opposition leaders.

    Gopalan DELIBERATELY placed himself in a position to be arrested. To say that he should have known what would happen if he kept taunting them is ridiculous, he damn well knew exactly what would happen, he wants to force the issues of a corrupt Judiciary and political party: The People’s Action Party, run by Lee Kuan Yew and his son.

    He believes that ‘Mentor Minister’ Lee Kuan Yew’s son now the Prime Minister is incompetant and that when his father dies the whole house of cards in Singapore is going to collapse. That is hard to predict, his son could manage to cling to power despite being weak. Time will tell.

    In the meantime Lee Kuan Yew will continue to bully anyone that gets in his way. It shall be interesting to see what occurs now, Gopalan must have some belief that the United States government will put pressure on Lee Kuan Yew to back off on prosecuting a US citizen since in theory the USA is supposed to be all about democracy and freedom of speech. Will they go afer their branch plant colony?

  • The same problem occurs when bloggers that write on technical subject matters, provide incorrect or misleading information. But I believe, the system will correct the situation, since other bloggers will point out errors and misleading data. Hence, while there is freedom, there are also checks and balances, thankfully.

  • Good one. Thanks for sharing 🙂