SINGAPORE: Former The Real Singapore (TRS) editor, Ai Takagi, was sentenced to 10 months' jail on Wednesday (Mar 23) for publishing doctored and “patently false” material on the now-defunct socio-political blog.
Earlier, prosecutors had urged the court to impose a 14-month jail term on Takagi, an Australian who pleaded guilty to four counts of sedition on Mar 8.
The 23-year-old’s Singaporean husband Yang Kaiheng, 27, faces similar charges but will challenge them.
TAKAGI’S POSTS "DESIGNED TO PROVOKE HATRED"
Prosecutors on Wednesday urged the court to impose a 14-month jail term on Takagi, who used a "toxic cocktail of vulgar language, innuendo (and) outright fabrication” to demonise foreigners, "leveraging xenophobia" to increase readership, Deputy Public Prosecutor G Kannan said.
Takagi and Yang earned advertising revenue of A$474,594 (S$492,500) from TRS between December 2013 and April 2015, the prosecution said, calling her a “shrewd businesswoman” and “calculating opportunist”.
The prosecutor said Takagi had no connection to Singapore except through her husband, had “no business meddling in Singapore’s local affairs” and potentially upset “one of the most important and envied characteristics of Singapore” – racial and religious harmony.
He added that Takagi’s posts were designed to provoke hatred against foreigners in Singapore, targeting foreigners from the Philippines, India and China. Her posts prompted an outpouring of anti-foreigner comments “too vile to be read out in court”, DPP Kannan said.
"I WILL BE MORE CAREFUL IN FUTURE": TAKAGI
Takagi’s lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said his client had not been “sufficiently sensitised” to the socio-political realities of Singapore, having grown up in Brisbane, Australia. Mr Choo said a 10-week jail term would suffice, urging the court to consider “not what she has done wrong, but what she has the potential to put right”.
In a public apology, Takagi told the court she is sincerely sorry for the harm she has caused. “I love Singapore and hope to call it my home permanently. I was not fully aware of the level of sensitivity needed when dealing with topics related to racial and religious issues in Singapore," she said. “I will be more careful with my online postings in future”.
Mr Choo also revealed that Takagi is eight weeks pregnant. Takagi has turned her attention away from the online space, he said, and spends her time caring for Yang’s paralysed father and helping out at her husband’s ramen stall.
Former The Real Singapore editor Ai Takagi arriving in court on Mar 23, 2016. (Photo: Ngau Kai Yan)
In seeking a 10-week jail term for Takagi, Mr Choo urged the court to consider how Takagi’s posts stack up against other instances of seditious content, pointing to the case of Filipino nurse Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, who was jailed four months for making inflammatory remarks against Singaporeans online, among other cases.
Takagi’s posts are “significantly less offensive” than this, Mr Choo argued.
DPP Kannan rejected this claim, urging the court to consider the difference between “expletive-ridden rants” and Takagi’s brand of “slow-burning sedition”.
Rational readers are likely to reject vulgar and offensive comments, but Takagi’s posts “cultivated ill-will at a much deeper level”, the DPP said. He cited her post about last year's Thaipusam procession being disrupted by a Filipino family who complained the loud drums were making their child cry. No such complaint by a Filipino family was ever made.
Takagi’s posts “fed off readers’ insecurities". "Instead of making them angry for a few moments, Takagi gave her readers an apparently rational reason to despise Filipinos in Singapore,” DPP Kannan argued.
“Takagi subtly and deceptively weaved xenophobia into the articles, and left it to her readers to fuel the fire she had started, by slinging curses on her behalf.”
For sedition, Takagi could have been jailed up to three years, fined S$5,000, or both.