TRS website earned almost $500k in 1.5 years
Former The Real Singapore editor Ai Takagi pleads guilty to four counts of sedition
As chief editor of the socio-political website, she had a duty to vet the articles to make sure they were not seditious.
But Ai Takagi, who was also an owner of the now-defunct The Real Singapore (TRS), did just the opposite.
She doctored, fabricated and published articles that had the tendency to promote ill will among different classes of people in Singapore - just to attract Internet users to her website.
Between December 2013 and April 2015, TRS raked in almost half a million dollars of advertising revenue.
From May 2014 to March last year, the website also had over 134 million pageviews.
This was until authorities shut it down last May, having earlier arrested Takagi and her then-boyfriend, Yang Kaiheng, on suspicion of committing sedition.
Yesterday, Takagi, 23, an Australian national of Japanese descent, pleaded guilty to four counts of sedition, with four other charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
Yang, 27, who was charged with eight similar charges, claimed trial on Monday.
The couple, who got married last October, were students at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Takagi, who has never resided, studied or worked in Singapore, was pursuing a law degree.
Court papers said that Takagi was responsible for TRS' day-to-day editorial operations. She controlled all content on the website and every article was uploaded with her approval.
Content on the website was generated by writers, who were given user accounts and could freely upload and edit articles, and contributors, who would submit articles to TRS via e-mail or its Facebook messaging system.
But Takagi would occasionally doctor these submitted articles to incite hostility between foreigners and Singaporeans.
One such example was when she published an article on the TRS website and put up a Facebook post that falsely claimed that a Filipino family caused an altercation between the police and participants of the February 2015 Thaipusam procession.
This made up the first proceeded charge.
Takagi also falsely attributed the article to a "Ri Nitesha" when the original content, which had no reference to the Filipino family, was submitted by a Ms Gowri Yanaseckaran.
Court papers said the actual disturbance was when police officers requested a group of musicians to stop playing their instruments as it was in breach of the licence conditions of the Thaipusam procession.
The musicians complied, but a commotion later occurred because several members of the public were unhappy that the police stepped in.
The court also heard that Takagi told authorities during investigations that TRS' editorial stance was to "instil fear" in companies that hired foreigners over Singaporeans.
This was evidenced in an article that Takagi, using the fictitious name Farhan, had written, telling readers that TRS' objective was to make companies think twice about hiring foreigners without considering the local workforce.
She had also stated that TRS' style of writing was to portray the local mainstream media as biased.
Court papers said Takagi had refused to answer the police investigation officer's questions on Yang's role in TRS, ownership of TRS and advertising revenue, among others.
On at least 101 occasions, she would reply "not relevant", court papers said.
Her case was adjourned to March 23.
She faces up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine for each sedition charge.
ABOUT YANG'S CASE
Yang Kaiheng, 27, is facing seven sedition charges and one charge of failing to present financial documents to the police.
Like his wife, Ai Takagi, 23, who pleaded guilty yesterday, Yang is accused of posting articles on The Real Singapore between October 2013 and February last year that allegedly promoted ill will and hostility among different races or classes here.
On Monday, he pleaded not guilty and is claiming trial.
Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) G. Kannan said in his opening statement that Yang had claimed that his involvement with TRS lasted only a month in 2012.
After that, Yang claimed his involvement was fleeting and ad hoc, he added.
But DPP Kannan said the prosecution will lead evidence to show Yang's continued, sustained and intimate involvement in running every aspect of TRS.
Man allegedly throws papers at Yang
An unknown man allegedly tried to serve a writ of summons to Yang Kaiheng outside the courtroom yesterday.
Yang had turned up at the State Courts for his wife's hearing.
When Yang refused to accept the writ, which is used to initiate civil proceedings, the man, who was wearing a dark-coloured jacket and jeans, allegedly threw the papers at Yang.
Both men were later seen giving statements to police officers outside the courtroom.
Yang's lawyer, Mr Remy Choo Zhengxi, confirmed the incident but said he was unaware of more details regarding the alleged writ.