Singaporean YouTuber Amos Yee, who is facing eight charges for making offensive remarks against Islam and Christianity, has started to gain global media attention after a social media campaign alerted Western media to his case.
In May, Yee was charged for six charges related to the anti-religion posts on his YouTube channel and two for failing to show up to court. The 17-year-old now faces up to three years in jail and is currently out on a $5,000 SGD bail, which his mother paid.
Yee’s videos, which specialise in refuting religion by using its own teachings (via the Bible or the Quran) via his Brain and Butter YouTube channel, has clocked up over 38,000 subscribers and regularly receives over a quarter of a million views per video.
A campaign led by supporters on Twitter and Facebook has now raised the profile of his case to global media, including an interview with American comedian and talk show host Dave Rubin.
In the interview with Rubin, Yee discusses the recent charges and claims that he’s been targeted by the government because he is a “political threat”. He relates this to prior charges in which he was jailed for 55 days in prison after mocking Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He gained some media attention at the time as Amnesty International disagreed with Singapore's decision to treat him as an adult.
Yee claimed they were using his videos on religion because they “don’t want to take me down for mocking politicians because foreigners wouldn’t like it”.
During the video Rubin questioned the laws around freedom of speech in relation to America or in Europe.
“There is a constitution in Singapore which allows freedom of speech, it’s article 14 but in that constitution itself in clause two it says ‘we have freedom of speech but there are restrictions to freedom of speech, even if it breaks the public harmony or is provocative or whatever’ and that completely fucking defeats the purpose of freedom of speech,” he explained.
He also lambasted the Singapore government and argued with countries like the US which he said was “unable to articulate” freedom of speech, leaving countries such as Singapore free to “manipulate that”.
As with any controversial social media figure or campaign, Yee is not without his hate mail. In a region that is highly religious, his videos stir up a lot of negative comments. The Facebook page ‘Petition to Free Amos Yee’ is attracting as many negative comments as it is positive, most leveling criticism at Yee’s expletive-laden style.