The new licensing scheme will require sites with a defined volume of content relating to Singaporean news and current affairs to be issued a license to operate following notification from Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA).
Under the licensing framework, online news sites will be individually licensed if they (i) report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs 1 over a period of two months, and (ii) are visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month over a period of two months. Currently, these sites are automatically class-licensed under the Broadcasting Act. When MDA has assessed that a site has met the criteria to be individually licensed, MDA will issue a formal notification and work with the site to move it to the new licensing framework.
Singapore’s Internet Code of Practice stipulates classes of content deemed “prohibited”. Prohibited content includes, among others, that which “undermines racial or religious harmony”. The licensing scheme makes it easier for the Singapore government to regulate content published by licensed sites under this code of practice and will require compliance within 24 hours from the time a licensed site is directed to remove content found to be in violation of this code. Furthermore, sites subject to the licensing framework are required to post a $50,000 “performance bond” as part of the license requirements.
Many Singaporeans are outraged by this new licensing law and see this measure as one that furthers their government’s efforts to suppress freedom of information and expression. The Singapore government, for its part, has reportedly taken efforts to assure the public that no such intent exists and clarifies…
Responding to the uproar online, the MDA assured the public that the license scheme is actually fair and will not undermine internet freedom. It reiterated that blogs are exempted from the regulation: “An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his/her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting.”
A movement has been organised to encourage Singaporeans to protest the new law. Dubbed #FreeMyInternet, its adherents (mainly the Singaporean blogging community according to the movement charter) have organised an event at Hong Lim Park in Singapore on the 8th of June where people could gather and participate in the protest. “We encourage all Singaporeans who are concerned about our future and our ability to participate in everyday online activities and discussions, and to seek out alternative news and analysis, to take a strong stand against the licensing regime which can impede on your independence.”
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