Singaporean online community angered by new media rule

May 29, 2013 by Bhavan Jaipragas
People surf the Internet at a cybercafe. Singapore's feisty online community has reacted angrily to an announcement that news websites including one operated by Yahoo! will have to obtain licences subjecting them to rules governing traditional media.

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 media.

"It is obvious that the new rules are to set and control the tone of discourse online, a concern which the government has had for a while now," said Andrew Loh, the editor of socio-political website

"The rise of social , as an increasing number of Singaporeans get their news online, has now prompted the government to let go of its promised 'light touch' on the Internet," he wrote on the site.

Singapore is one of Asia's wealthiest and most wired nations but also one of the most regimented.

Its traditional media are widely seen to be pro-government, giving rise to alternative sources of news online amid growing discontent with the ruling party and its policies.

The popular of Yahoo! Singapore was included Tuesday on a list of 10 websites that will have to obtain annual licences starting Saturday—all the nine others are sites run by mainstream Singapore media groups.

The Media Development Authority (MDA), the official , said websites that have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish at least one local a week fall under the new rules.

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 the MDA.

International media watchdog Reporters Sans Frontieres ranked Singapore 149th globally in this year, down 14 places from 2012 and below such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Yahoo! Singapore, which has a team of reporters doing independent coverage, has become a magnet for anti-government comments posted by readers in reaction to local .

Executives at Yahoo! Singapore told AFP they would not comment until they see details of the licensing rules.

"It certainly looks like there's political motivation behind this new licensing framework, and the motivation seems to be to rein in Yahoo! Singapore," wrote prominent blogger Ravi Philemon.

Others questioned what they called the arbitrary nature of the MDA's decision to require Yahoo! to obtain a licence under the new regulatory regime while leaving untouched volunteer-run blogs also popular among Singaporeans.

"MDA's failure to explain how its new policy is to be applied at present suggest that the manner in which it is being introduced is opaque and arbitrary," wrote the editors of socio-political website The Online Citizen.

There was no immediate reaction from the MDA to the criticism.

In its announcement Tuesday, it said it expected "no change in content standards" since websites already must comply with content restrictions, citing in particular the need to curb "content that underlines racial or religious harmony" in the multi-ethnic society.

Traditional media outlets, owned by Singapore Press Holdings and state-linked broadcasting group Mediacorp, are subject to licences that can be revoked at any time by the authorities.

The People's Action Party, in power for more than 50 years, suffered its worst ever electoral performance in May 2011, getting an all-time low of 60 percent of the popular vote after the opposition and its supporters relied heavily on social media for campaigning.

Explore further: Singapore's SPH sues Yahoo! in copyright row

Related Stories

Singapore's SPH sues Yahoo! in copyright row

November 23, 2011

Asian media group Singapore Press Holdings is suing Yahoo! for copyright infringement, accusing the US Internet giant of reproducing its news items without permission.

Social media open up Singapore political debate

April 22, 2011

When the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) introduced a fresh-faced 27-year-old woman as one of its candidates for next month's elections, it was hoping to generate buzz among young voters.

Singapore PM finally taps into Facebook, Twitter

April 20, 2012

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong joined Facebook and Twitter on Friday to better connect with citizens who have increasingly vented their frustrations with his government on social media.

Recommended for you

Google, EU dig in for long war

July 20, 2017

Google and the EU are gearing up for a battle that could last years, with the Silicon Valley behemoth facing a relentless challenge to its ambition to expand beyond search results.

Strengthening 3-D printed parts for real-world use

July 20, 2017

From aerospace and defense to digital dentistry and medical devices, 3-D printed parts are used in a variety of industries. Currently, 3-D printed parts are very fragile and only used in the prototyping phase of materials ...

Swimming robot probes Fukushima reactor to find melted fuel

July 19, 2017

An underwater robot entered a badly damaged reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant Wednesday, capturing images of the harsh impact of its meltdown, including key structures that were torn and knocked out of place.

Microsoft cloud to help Baidu self-driving car effort

July 19, 2017

Microsoft's cloud computing platform will be used outside China for collaboration by members of a self-driving car alliance formed by Chinese internet search giant Baidu, the companies announced on Tuesday.

Making lab equipment on the cheap

July 18, 2017

Laboratory equipment is one of the largest cost factors in neuroscience. However, many experiments can be performed with good results using self-assembled setups involving 3-D printed components and self-programmed electronics. ...


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.