STEPHANIE GARCIA WRITES -The Singapore government just made it a lot harder for small news outfits to do their jobs. But netizens refuse to go down without a fight.
On May 28 the Media Development Agency (MDA) enacted new Internet regulations on news sites. Under the rules, sites that regularly report on Singapore (at least once a week over a two-month period) with more than 50,000 unique monthly visitors must get their own licenses to keep operating. To obtain one, the site must put up a S$50,000 “performance bond” and commit to removing within 24 hours any material the government condemns as “prohibited content.”
Right off the bat, the MDA named 10 news sites that will need licenses, many of which are owned by Singapore Press Holdings. Yahoo Singapore was the only site not locally operated in Singapore.
As expected, Singaporeans strongly object to the new regulations. It’s no secret that mainstream print media has been held to the Lee Kuan Yew standard of steering clear of anything that may cause civil disorder or undermine the government.
But the Internet has given netizens the chance to report on and consume news with less fear of punishment or restriction. This step backward has Singaporeans eager to defend their sacred cyberspace.
A group of web users going by the name “Free My Internet” has organized a boycott and rally. Under the plan, netizens were to take part in a 24-hour shut down of their websites and blogs June 6. A subsequent rally is scheduled for June 8 at Speakers’ Corner. The group also created a petition demanding the MDA review the new regulations “with the aim of ensuring that the constitutional rights of Singaporeans are not violated.”
Noted blogger and former journalist Bertha Henson: “Odd that my fellow members on Breakfast Network and I would have to think about how NOT to make ourselves so popular that we would breach the 50,000 threshold.”
Who knew popularity could be so expensive?
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