Published: 07 November 2016
Ms Joan Pereira: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs what are the measures and penalties to deter social media posts or online publications from sowing discord among different racial and religious groups.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether the laws of Singapore can be strengthened to ensure that our social and racial harmony will not be adversely affected by malicious lies published by foreign entities and which may have the effect of undermining racial or religious harmony.
1. Madam Speaker, with your permission, I will address together Ms Joan Pereira and Mr Lim Biow Chuan's questions on publications that undermine racial and religious harmony.
2. Racial and religious harmony is fundamental to Singapore's peace and prosperity as a nation. Our laws against the incitement of hatred and disharmony between racial and religious groups are contained in the Penal Code, Sedition Act and Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act. The Telecommunications Act also includes a provision that criminalises the sending of false messages. Offences under these laws are subject to imprisonment or a fine, or both, for a first offence. For example, Section 298A of the Penal Code criminalises the promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion or race, or any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious and racial groups. The offence under Section 298A is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, or a fine or both. Under the Sedition Act, it is an offence to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore, which is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years or a fine of up to $5,000 or both, for a first offence. Subsequent offences are dealt with more severely.
3. There have been prosecutions for transgressions.
4. We should have no tolerance for those who seek to undermine Singapore's racial and religious harmony. The government will continue to take a tough stand against those who seek to do so.
5. We will review our legislation, to ensure that they remain relevant.