Rights watchdog urges Singapore to drop Internet rules

Jun 07, 2013
A person browses through media websites on a computer in Singapore, on May 30, 2013. Human Rights Watch urged Singapore to drop new licencing rules for news websites, saying the "onerous" regulations would limit access to independent media.

Human Rights Watch urged Singapore to drop new licencing rules for news websites, saying the "onerous" regulations would limit access to independent media.

The new rules, which require popular websites to obtain an annual licence, will discourage independent reporting and curb in online communities, the US-based watchdog said in a statement, released on Friday.

Volunteer-run blogs focusing on social and political issues including poverty and immigration have gained popularity as an alternative source of news and opinion in Singapore, where the is widely seen as pro-government.

These blogs and other online social sites have also been used by citizens to vent their frustrations and criticisms of , often setting the tone for in a country governed by strict laws against dissent.

"The Singaporean government should withdraw an onerous new licencing requirement for online ," Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

Cynthia Wong, the organisation's senior Internet researcher, added: "Singapore's new licencing requirement casts a chill over the city-state's robust and free-wheeling , and will clearly limit Singaporeans' access to independent media."

She warned that the new rules could harm Singapore's reputation as a business centre.

"Singapore is placing its status as a world-class financial centre at clear risk by extending its record of draconian media censorship to the digital world."

Under the rules, which kicked in on June 1, websites with at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month that publish at least one local news article per week over a period of two months must obtain an annual licence.

Websites granted a licence will have to remove "prohibited content" such as articles that undermine "racial or religious harmony" within 24 hours of being notified by Singapore's media regulator, the Media Development Authority.

The rules have caused an uproar in the online community, which largely sees it as a measure to muzzle freedom of speech.

More than 130 Singaporean bloggers blacked out their homepages on Thursday and will hold a rally on Saturday to protest the new rules.

But Singapore's media regulator and other government officials have sought to allay fears that the new rules will impinge on Internet freedom.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said Tuesday the government would continue to take a "light touch" approach to regulating the Internet and noted that blogs were not covered by the rules as they are not considered news portals.

Explore further: Twitter takes note of other apps on smartphones

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Singapore defends Internet licencing rules

May 30, 2013

Singapore's media regulator on Thursday sought to allay fears that a controversial new rule requiring news websites to obtain licences was aimed at stifling Internet freedom.

Singaporean online community angered by new media rule

May 29, 2013

Singapore's feisty online community reacted angrily Wednesday to an announcement that news websites including one operated by Yahoo! will have to obtain licences subjecting them to rules governing traditional ...

Recommended for you

UN moves to strengthen digital privacy (Update)

Nov 25, 2014

The United Nations on Tuesday adopted a resolution on protecting digital privacy that for the first time urged governments to offer redress to citizens targeted by mass surveillance.

Spotify turns up volume as losses fall

Nov 25, 2014

The world's biggest music streaming service, Spotify, announced Tuesday its revenue grew by 74 percent in 2013 while net losses shrank by one third, in a year of spectacular expansion.

Virtual money and user's identity

Nov 25, 2014

Bitcoin is the new money: minted and exchanged on the Internet. Faster and cheaper than a bank, the service is attracting attention from all over the world. But a big question remains: are the transactions ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.