MLC: Calvin Cheng did not engage in hate speech

Media Literacy Council (MLC) has published a statement by its chairman on the recent comments made by former Nominated Member of Parliament, Mr Calvin Cheng, about killing children of terrorists just “in case” they grow up to take revenge.

Mr Cheng posted on a thread about liberalism and security started by Future-Moves group chief executive Devadas Krishnadas.

Below is the full text of Mr Cheng’s offending comment:
(Click here to read about what members of public wrote to MLC on the comments.)

“The terrorists are not common criminals, it’s not about crime punishment and deterrence.

They are a mortal enemy intent on killing and destroying.

So you kill them before they kill you. And their children too in case they grow up to take revenge.

it’s as simple as that. Please don’t complicate matters.”

Professor Tan Cheng Han wrote, “Taking everything into consideration, I am unable to conclude that what Mr Cheng said as a whole amounts to hate speech. In arriving at this view, I took into account the initial discussion thread, the medium of communication, and Mr Cheng’s subsequent blogpost where he elaborated on his views.

Although Mr Cheng did not in my view engage in hate speech, as a member of the Council he has to visibly uphold the values that the Council espouses. In this instance, his comments were insensitive and therefore inappropriate for a member of the MLC. I have spoken to Mr Cheng and counselled him that as a member of the Council he will be held to and judged by a higher standard compared to a private citizen.”

In response to MLC’s Facebook posting, many took to the comment section to voice their opinions on how the council handled the incident.

Cherian George, a former member of MLC now teaching in Hong Kong, wrote in the comments, “As a former member of the MLC, I’m happy to see this response. MLC shouldn’t police the content of debates, but it can occasionally signal what it considers to be a breach of the norms that it wants to encourage, as part of its educational role. Online discussion is a grand and worthwhile experiment, and we can all learn from one another’s mistakes.”

But apart from the few comments such as the above, majority of the commenters felt that the reaction by MLC on the matter was insufficient.

Johnny Tang wrote, “The fact that someone who consistently posts inflammatory and divisive remarks is still allowed to be a member of the MLC is clear indication of how MLC is a completely hopeless organisation.”

Peter Leung commented, “Hard to take MLC seriously when this low standard is deemed acceptable. What values are you trying to show the public? I think the MLC has lost its moral authority by continuing to support Mr Calvin Cheng and remain nonchalant to the whole issue.”

Joel Lee added, “Fair enough. Despite Cheng’s pathetic cries of victimisation, most don’t actually want to see his (or anyone’s) views policed. But oh, what a strange country we live in, where a 16 year old offending the sensibilities of religious people invokes the wrath of the law more than a supposedly more educated adult who advocates the killing of children. Yet here you are, blithely trotting out phrases like “higher standard”. I suppose one does find hilarity in unlikely places.

Until the establishment decides to liberalise civil rights for all, or enforce its repressive laws equally, I cannot take organisations like the MLC seriously. Hopefully your earnest counselling will work, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

Mr Cheng soon posted on his public fanpage thanking his supporters, reiterating that he did not engage in hate speech. He asked readers to judge for themselves if his comment would be considered insensitive or inappropriate if he had not been a member of MLC.

He added that he will stay clear of controversial, non-political issues in the meantime as it places an unnecessary burden on the council members and the Media Development Agency (MDA).

The original post by Devadas Krishnadas where Calvin Cheng’s offending comments were published has since been deleted or removed from public view.

The Media Literacy Council (MLC) was formed on 1 August 2012 with the purpose of spearheading public education on media literacy and cyber wellness, and to advise the government on the appropriate policy response to an increasingly complex and borderless world of media, technology, consumer expectations and participation.

The MLC members were then appointed by the Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica), Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.