Blogger probed for offensive Facebook post

SINGAPORE - Police are investigating a blogger for allegedly publishing a photo that is offensive to Muslims on his Facebook (FB) page.

Donaldson Tan, editor of Singapore-based current affairs commentary website New Asia Rebublic, is accused of putting up a picture of a pig superimposed on the Kaaba, a cuboid building in Mecca that is sacred in Islam.

Pigs are considered unclean animals in Islam.

The post was accompanied by the text: "This is a flame bait. YOU ARE WARNED".

Mr Tan told The Straits Times that he had seen the photo on his FB news feed when his friend commented on it, and had reposted the photo as a warning to people to look out for the photo as a "flame bait'.

A flame bait, more commonly known as trolling, is something deliberately engineered to provoke angry responses or an argument on a topic the poster often has no real opinion on.

He said he was soon attacked online by Muslims, but told reporters that he would not take the picture down even after being requested to do so by well-meaning friends, as he believes in the freedom of speech and that "Islam is not sacrosanct".

Facebook has since removed the original post and his reposting has disappeared consequentially.

He added that he does not consider what he did as wrong, and that people are overreacting.

The post was brought to the attention of the police by Mr Amran Junid, who lodged a police report. Mr Amran said the editor has made racist remarks about Malays or Muslims on his FB page before, which Mr Amran had disregarded as "just a comment from a misinformed individual", The Online Citizen (TOC) reported.

Mr Tan was a former editor at TOC, but was asked to leave in January 2010, TOC said.

Mr Amran also highlighted a woman called Serena Lee for posting racist comments on the FB post by Mr Tan.

This is the third such case of racially or religiously offensive online postings in recent weeks. The other two police reports were lodged against People's Action Party youth wing member Mr Jason Neo and full-time national serviceman Christian Eliab Ratnam.

Mr Neo had posted a racist photo of a kindergarten bus carrying Malay students. He has sent an apology to the school, Huda Kindergarten, and requested permission to pay a visit to the school to apologise in person.

Mr Ratnam had posted a picture of text criticising Islam on his FB page. He has apologised for the posting through a statement published by TOC.

The Ministry of Home Affairs reminded the public that the right to free speech does not extend to making remarks that incite racial and religious friction and conflict.

If charged and found guilty, those accused of promoting ill-will and hostility between Singapore's ethnic communities can be jailed for a maximum of three years and/or fined up to S$5,000.

yamadak@sph.com.sg


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