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BLOG: Watch your words

Zafar Anjum | Jan. 2, 2013
When posting stuff on Facebook, make sure you watch your words. The recent arrest of an Indian boy who threatened to bomb Marina Bay Sands on his Facebook page is a grim reminder.

We bade farewell to 2012 on a somber note on account of the death of the New-Delhi gang-rape victim Amanat/Nirbhaya who passed away in Singapore last week (Indian gang-rape victim dies in Singapore). Many shed tears for her not only in India but the world over.

While her death was shocking, the sacrifice by this brave daughter of India has not gone in vain. What happened to her has awakened an entire nation.

As if to counterbalance it, the New Year has started with an absurd piece of news and this time again it is an Indian who has managed to grab the headlines for wrong reasons (Boy arrested over alleged threat to blow up MBS).

According to local media, an Indian boy who posted a threat on his Facebook page to "plant bombs" at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has been arrested by Singapore police. MBS is one of Singapore integrated resorts (casinos) and has become the symbol of a new 21st century Singapore.

The 13-year old, who cannot be named because of legal reasons, vented out in a post on his Facebook page, saying that he will take "revenge" on Singapore when he leaves the country by spitting everywhere and "planting bombs on Marina Bay Sands".

According to Yahoo Singapore, the boy is from New Delhi and he attended the Global Indian International School in Queenstown.

Even though the offender is a minor in this case, nobody will defend his action. First of all, he is a guest in Singapore and as a guest, he should show some respect to the host country. Second, he should not have expressed his anger, however deep and justified in his judgment, on Facebook which is a public platform. Third, what he promised to do with MBS is patently dangerous and the police have rightfully proceeded against him.

The police have classified the case as a Breach of Prohibition Against False Threats of Terrorist Acts and the offence is punishable with a fine not exceeding S$100,000, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, or both. Police investigations are still on, local media has said.

While we take freedom of expression for granted, especially on social media forums, we should remember that what we say can boomerang against us and get us into trouble. The case of former NTUC assistant director Amy Cheong and Chinese scholar Sun Xu come to mind. They had not threatened anybody in particular but had vented out their emotions that hurt the feelings of Singaporeans or a community in particular.

What the Indian boy has done this time has gone one step further: he issued a threat to an organisation. If only he had the counsel of his parents or his teachers before he posted any inflammatory remarks.

Zafar Anjum is the online editor of MIS Asia, CIO Asia, Computerworld Singapore and Computerworld Malaysia.


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