Singapore introduces online media control

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singapore-computerSingapore’s Media Development Authority said on May 28 that local Internet news sites that regularly report on the city state will have to obtain a license from June 1, 2013. This includes the local portal of Yahoo! and other news sites based on criteria such as having 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore a month.

The license is subject to renewal every year and includes that the websites deposit a  “performance bond” of 50,000 Singapore dollars ($39,700) and remove any ‘objectionable’ content within 24 hours of receiving a government order.

The 10 sites that will first be affected are, apart from Yahoo’s Singapore news site, seven news sites operated by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., the city-state’s largest publisher, which has close relations to the government, and two sites run by state-owned broadcaster MediaCorp. More sites, run by local and foreign media, could be affected in the future.

The authority said it would “impose financial penalties or suspend or revoke” the licenses of any websites that do not comply with any of the conditions.

The government also plans to expand the new licensing regime to overseas-based sites that report regularly on Singapore and could be banned in the city state if they not comply with the licensing rules.

The authority says it will regularly be monitoring the sites for violation of license conditions. However, it is not clear what constitutes “objectionable” material in the eyes of regulators, apart from material deemed objectionable on grounds of morality, security, ‘public interest’ and ‘social harmony’. The Singapore government argues that “press freedom must sometimes be subordinated to the needs of nation building” and that “media regulation is necessary to ensure responsible journalism and to protect the reputation of public officials and institutions.”

The move has drawn strong criticism from the online community and press freedom groups. In fact, Singapore has not the best record in freedom of speech through the media. The country was ranked 153rd globally in terms of press freedom by Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House in a recent report. Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 149 in the Paris-based group’s latest press freedom index. The groups regularly criticise Singapore for using its media and defamation laws to curb freedom of expression.

In detail: Online news sites whose servers are located in Singapore and which fulfil the following two specific criteria will be subjected to individual licensing:

1) Sites which publish at least eight articles on Singapore over a period of two months.

2) The site must also be visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month, over the same period.

Affected sites so far are:

asiaone.com
businesstimes.com.sg
channelnewsasia.com
omy.sg
sg.news.yahoo.com
stomp.com.sg
straitstimes.com
Tnp.sg
todayonline.com
zaobao.com

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Singapore’s Media Development Authority said on May 28 that local Internet news sites that regularly report on the city state will have to obtain a license from June 1, 2013. This includes the local portal of Yahoo! and other news sites based on criteria such as having 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore a month.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

singapore-computerSingapore’s Media Development Authority said on May 28 that local Internet news sites that regularly report on the city state will have to obtain a license from June 1, 2013. This includes the local portal of Yahoo! and other news sites based on criteria such as having 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore a month.

The license is subject to renewal every year and includes that the websites deposit a  “performance bond” of 50,000 Singapore dollars ($39,700) and remove any ‘objectionable’ content within 24 hours of receiving a government order.

The 10 sites that will first be affected are, apart from Yahoo’s Singapore news site, seven news sites operated by Singapore Press Holdings Ltd., the city-state’s largest publisher, which has close relations to the government, and two sites run by state-owned broadcaster MediaCorp. More sites, run by local and foreign media, could be affected in the future.

The authority said it would “impose financial penalties or suspend or revoke” the licenses of any websites that do not comply with any of the conditions.

The government also plans to expand the new licensing regime to overseas-based sites that report regularly on Singapore and could be banned in the city state if they not comply with the licensing rules.

The authority says it will regularly be monitoring the sites for violation of license conditions. However, it is not clear what constitutes “objectionable” material in the eyes of regulators, apart from material deemed objectionable on grounds of morality, security, ‘public interest’ and ‘social harmony’. The Singapore government argues that “press freedom must sometimes be subordinated to the needs of nation building” and that “media regulation is necessary to ensure responsible journalism and to protect the reputation of public officials and institutions.”

The move has drawn strong criticism from the online community and press freedom groups. In fact, Singapore has not the best record in freedom of speech through the media. The country was ranked 153rd globally in terms of press freedom by Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House in a recent report. Reporters Without Borders ranked the country 149 in the Paris-based group’s latest press freedom index. The groups regularly criticise Singapore for using its media and defamation laws to curb freedom of expression.

In detail: Online news sites whose servers are located in Singapore and which fulfil the following two specific criteria will be subjected to individual licensing:

1) Sites which publish at least eight articles on Singapore over a period of two months.

2) The site must also be visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month, over the same period.

Affected sites so far are:

asiaone.com
businesstimes.com.sg
channelnewsasia.com
omy.sg
sg.news.yahoo.com
stomp.com.sg
straitstimes.com
Tnp.sg
todayonline.com
zaobao.com

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