Photo of Ai Takagi and Yang Kai Heng from Wong Kwai Chow The Straits Times

Update: Ai Takagi to plead guilty while Yang Kai Heng to contest the charges for his innocence. The case will be mentioned again at 2.30pm tomorrow (March 8).

Two of the three editors for former popular socio-civic website The Real Singapore are going to the State Courts today (March 7) to face 7 counts of sedition charges for anti-government articles between Oct 2013 and Feb 2015. The Singapore Court asserts that Yang Kai Heng, 27, and Ai Takagi, 23, promoted ill will and hostility between races in Singapore. Each charge carries a maximum of S$5,000 fine and 3 years’ jail sentence.

One of the articles reported an inaccuracy saying that a Filipino family caused an incident between the police and Thaipusam participants. It is understood that The Real Singapore editors wrote the article based off an anonymous contribution. However the mistake was cleared up with a public apology on its Facebook page, which apparently the Singapore Police do not accept. The other 6 articles that warranted other Sedition charges were not mentioned in the government-controlled media.

The website was ordered to shut down by the state censorship authority, Media Development Authority (MDA) under the Ministry of Information. The duo was arrested in January 2015 when they arrived in Singapore from Brisbane Australia for a family visit. The third former editor, Alex Tan, left in March shortly after being called up to assist investigation and has since been living in self-exile in Sydney Australia. Alex Tan set up States Times Review on May 7, barely a week after The Real Singapore was shut down on April 28. However Alex Tan has since left States Times Review in February to focus on his career.

In December 2015, writer Roy Ngerng was sued for S$150,000 in damages by the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when he criticized him and his wife’s involvement with Temasek Holdings and the country’s retirement fund CPF. In July 2015, 16-year-old minor Amos Yee was trialed as an adult and jailed for more than 50 days for criticizing the recently-deceased dictator Lee Kuan Yew. In March 2015, writer Alex Au was fined S$8,000 for contempt of court when he criticized the Singapore Court. Just last week, another socio-civic website TheOnlineCitizen has been ordered to pay S$5,000 for “receiving funds from a foreign entity in 2014”. Also in February 2016, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam threatened to prosecute anyone who comments on a recent teen suicide case which embarrassed the Singapore government.

The Singapore government uses defamation suits, the Sedition Act and the contempt of court charges to silence critics and oppress dissent, a legacy left behind dictator Lee Kuan Yew and readily adopted by the present Prime Minister.