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Trial of Singaporean vlogger Amos Yee ‘deeply worrying’ for speech freedom – UN expert

Singaporean vlogger Amos Yee’s trial is “deeply worrying and a sign of the increased criminalisation of expression in the country,” a rights expert appointed by the United Nations’ Human Rights Council said as Yee’s trial resumed on Wednesday.

David Kaye, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, said that “tolerance and the rights of others are legitimate aims for any state to pursue. However, the criminalisation of a broad range of legitimate, even if offensive, expression is not the right tool for this purpose, and may well have the opposite effect.”

amos yee

Amos Yee speaking to HKFP via Skype in  May. Photo: HKFP.

Yee frequently posts videos critical of the government and the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). He was convicted in May 2015 for offending the sentiments of Christians in a video comparing Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan-yew with Jesus Christ. He was also convicted for posting an obscene doctored image of Lee and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in a sexual position.

Kaye said the trial was one of the cases reflecting a widening crackdown in Singapore on political dissent, criticism, and controversial expression and that such trials may lead to self-censorship and “hinder the development of an open and pluralistic environment.”

Amos Yee thatcher picture

A screenshot of Amos Yee and the obscene image featuring Lee Kuan-yew and Margaret Thatcher.

See also: Interview: Singapore blogger Amos Yee on press freedom, feminism, and protest

Yee will defend himself in court and the trial is expected to last for four days, according to the Straits Times. He faces eight charges – two for failing to report for investigations and six for allegedly intending to wound the feelings of Christians or Muslims.

If found guilty, he may be sentenced to up to three years in jail.

Trial of Singaporean vlogger Amos Yee 'deeply worrying' for speech freedom - UN expert