Amos Yee, Free Speech, and Maintaining Religious Harmony in Singapore
58 Pages Posted: 2 May 2017
Date Written: April 28, 2017
This Article examines the tension between freedom of speech and laws restricting the defamation of religion, using the case study of Singapore and the Amos Yee case. In 2015, four days after the death of revered former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Amos Yee, a sixteen-year-old blogger, posted a video called “Lee Kuan Yew is finally dead!” and, one day later, an image on his blog entitled “Lee Kuan Yew buttfucking Margaret Thatcher.” As part of Yee’s eight-minute-long video, Yee spent forty seconds criticizing Lee by drawing an unfavorable analogy between Lee and Jesus. As a result, Yee was charged under section 298 of the Penal Code, the law prohibiting the “uttering of words with the deliberate intent to wound the religious or racial feelings.” While international news highlighted Yee’s prosecution as a blatant attempt to silence criticism of the former Prime Minister, the courts held steadfast in their belief that Yee’s words were hurtful towards Christians, and that offending the religious sentiments of any community would not be tolerated in Singapore. This Article will review the facts of the case, the history of the law, and its application. It will also attempt to situate the law in the larger Defamation of Religions resolution debate in the United Nations from 1999–2010 and review legal restrictions on free speech in the United States and Europe.
Keywords: Defamation of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Singapore, Amos Yee
JEL Classification: K14, K37, K42, N31, N35, N45, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation