Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Singapore 'not alone' in tweaking media laws

NZ, Britain also reviewing regulation of new and old media, says Yaacob

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the rationale for licensing mainstream media is to ensure they report responsibly, and this rationale remains valid even with new media. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Singapore is not the only country tweaking the laws governing traditional and online media, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said yesterday. 

New Zealand and Britain are also reviewing their regulatory approaches and frameworks for new and old media. 

His remarks yesterday follow concerns that the Government's move - requiring prominent local news sites to get licences - amounts to tighter regulation

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Govt to continue light touch approach on Web


The Government's new licensing framework for news websites is not a "fundamental shift" in policy and is in line with its "light touch" approach to regulating the Internet, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

"Like our regulations in the physical world, our regulations for the online space are meant to ensure that people are responsible for their actions, which have real-world consequences," he said.

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Govt has been lenient in asking websites to remove content

IN the last two decades, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has told websites to take down content only 24 times – and all concerned religiously offensive or pornographic content.

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim also said yesterday that there has been no instance when websites were asked to take down content critical of the government or a minister.

He said the MDA has been “restrained” in directing sites to take down content under the Class License scheme.

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New MDA licensing regime is still 'light touch regulation': Yaacob
New MDA licensing regime is still 'light touch regulation': Yaacob
Time will tell in whether this is an attempt to limit public discourse online, Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim says

Addressing the fears of many in the online community, Minister for Communications and Information Dr Yaacob Ibrahim today (June 4) signaled that government news or commentary will not be targeted under the new licensing regime for Singapore news sites, as long as they are factual and not misleading, and said that such claims are 'far fetched'.

Clarifying the guidelines on restricted content, he said:"Nowhere do the guidelines state that news sites cannot question or highlight the shortcomings of government policies, as long as the assessments are well intentioned, and not based on factual inaccuracies with the intention to mislead the public."

He said this in a discussion with reporters who had asked raised queries on the online licensing framework triggered by the licensing regime which took effect on Saturday, as well as issued a statement.

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MDA fiasco: MSM made to look its worst


The MDA is not going to touch the producers and bloggers of socio-political sites for a while. Putting aside your fears, it's time to call this the MDA fiasco. You can't get the MDA or government to admit that they have botched this that's how you must now call the whole episode.

It's really easy. These the the moments the government shot its own foot and pressed the MSM that it is their national duty to make them look good. These are the times when the MSM look their worst but unfortunately for them too many readers can't tell the guises MSM come to us in.

Such readers forget that they need to develop the skill to discriminate even more precisely reading the foreign media. Every media has its agenda!

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Dr Yaacob’s incorrect and embarrassing New Zealand comparison

This morning, my eyes nearly popped out of my skull when I read in the ST that Minister for Communications and Information (MCI) had compared the MDA Licensing Regime to recommendations made by a New Zealand (NZ) Law Commission Report on new media.

This is an embarrassing example for Dr Yaacob Ibrahim to use, and shows how desperate his Ministry is becoming to grasp at any fig leaf of legitimacy to justify their Licensing Regime.

In fact, Dr Yaacob’s example is so misguided and confused that one has to wonder whether or not he has actually read the report. New Zealanders would certainly be shocked to discover how he has interpreted the findings of the report

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OPINION: Tan Chuan-Jin's evasive replies to callers' questions in Talking Point leave viewers unconvinced that Govt is not clamping down on the internet


The Real Singapore, 4 Jun 2013
Watching Acting Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan Jin on the Talking Point programme special reminds one of a book which has the full title, "Denialism, How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms The Planet, And Threatens Our Lives." The despicable licensing of news sites is no rocket science, but Tan was definitely in full denial mode. 

He repeated ad nausem there was nothing new to regulations already in place. Well, before 1 June 2013, there was no $50,000 dangling like the sword of damocles over sites that have a reach of 50,000 and offer at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs. And then there's the potential fine of up to $200,000 and/or 3 years in jail if the Media Development Authority (MDA) feels you are tardy in taking down the offending post within 24 hours. The lawyers' letters of demand, which has seen quite a bit of action, at least provides a longer time-frame to respond.

One caller phoning in asked point blank whether Tan is prepared to state on air that no blog site will ever need to be licensed. The cowardly general took evasive action behind the "until such point that we notify other sites" caveat emptor, choosing instead to keep all options open. His empty promises smack of the hypocrisy of 377A, which also promised a light touch. Full story

Related:
Spore regulation aimed at ‘a level of responsibility’ for news outlets: Tan Chuan-Jin
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How Mistrust is Generated

Watching Acting Minister of Manpower Tan Chuan Jin on the Talking Point programme special reminds one of a book which has the full title, "Denialism, How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms The Planet, And Threatens Our Lives." The despicable licensing of news sites is no rocket science, but Tan was definitely in full denial mode.

He repeated ad nausem there was nothing new to regulations already in place. Well, before 1 June 2013, there was no $50,000 dangling like the sword of damocles over sites that have a reach of 50,000 and offer at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs. And then there's the potential fine of up to $200,000 and/or 3 years in jail if the Media Development Authority (MDA) feels you are tardy in taking down the offending post within 24 hours.

The lawyers' letters of demand, which has seen quite a bit of action, at least provides a longer time-frame to respond.

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What Are You Really Up To?

You know when sometimes when someone leaves a good job to ‘pursue his own interests’ or to ‘spend more time with his family’, it usually means they’ve been fired? It means you really got to learn to read between the lines, because sometimes people just won’t tell you the real reasons for their actions.

So when MDA says it doesn’t want to change the editorial slant of Internet news sites, that it only wants to ensure consistency across media, we’ve got to read between the lines.

MDA doesn’t need more powers to take down a really offensive posting. Google acceded almost immediately when asked to take down The Innocence of Muslims on YouTube. And if takedowns are rare– with only one in the last two years– then why does MDA want more powers? Do they expect a lot of recalcitrant websites in the next two years? They don’t say.

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MDA’s absurd pretence of parity

Singapore’s Media Development Authority have gone to some lengths in an attempt to downplay the chilling effect on freedom of expression likely to result from the recently announced licensing regime for news websites. One of the more peculiar claims was that the changes are intended to bring about “parity” between online and mainstream media sources. Reporters Without Borders quite rightly described this suggestion as “utterly absurd”.

When it comes to broadcasting television programs over the airwaves, regulation and licensing is required because there is a definite lack of broadcasting spectrum, the allocation of which needs to be carefully managed. Given the relative scarcity of available frequencies, there is an argument to be made for creating an artificial barrier to entry to discourage wastage. It should be obvious that no such argument exists online – in fact the power of the internet is that the opposite applies – anyone with a single meaningful thought can and will share it with the world at the click of a button. For this reason, MDA’s purported intent – to create parity – is detached from reality.

Furthermore, the mainstream media in Singapore which MDA seek to bring websites into parity with are far from a beacon of excellence. Singapore’s television and print media are so cowed by the spectre of government interference that they score lower than that of Vladimir Putin’s Russia in RSF’s press freedom rankings.

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MDA – Loosening the G string

I sat through the live telecast of Talking Point on the issue of new licensing of online news sites. The most unbelieveable thing to happen in the programme is that the MDA personnel was not there, not Yaacob or Koh Lin Net but the Minister of MOM, Tan Chuan Jin. Isn’t this odd? Don’t tell me the new regulation was initiated and approved by Chuan Jin and he has to kuai kuai come out to explain his stand?

Quite possible isn’t it? If I were Yaacob or Lin Net, even if my name is named after internet, I would not want to explain anything so unpopular if I have nothing to do with it. Your guess why Chuan Jin has to front this show.

What came through very clearly was that the regulation was rushed out without much thought, with many blanks left unanswered. Now they are going to relook at the details and to fill in the blanks. The main purpose is to target sites that are reporting on Singapore news and not so much about the right news. But right news still came out for some discussion and by the end of the show, no one really knows what is the right news or what is the right news all about.

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Internet Code of Conduct


– Breakfast Network: Licence scheme: Answers not very good leh
– Tots of Cynical Investor: Answering the PAP’s cock & bull about the “long term”
– Holly Jean: Crying Foul over MDA Licensing Framework for News Websites
– guanyinmiao’s musings: An Objective Neutral Internet? (Hint: It Doesn’t Exist)
– Signs of Struggle: Like a good journalist should
– DKSG: What happen to the Media Literacy Council?
– New Asia Republic: Why MDA’s licensing rule can be a credibility own goal
– Blogging for Myself: MDA fiasco: MSM made to look its worst
– Reflections on Change: Do Sporeans Believe What The Government Says?
– Ravi Philemon: How are existing regulations inadequate Yaacob?
– S M Ong: Singapore Internet regulation, 1996-style!
– The Kent Ridge Common: Internet freedom is vital to individual liberty
– Where Bears Roam Free: More horse manure from Yaacob Ibrahim
– Sgpolitics: #FreeMyInternet response to Dr Yaacob Ibrahim’s statements
– Heart Truths: Singapore’s Very Own Voting Blackout! #FreeMyInternet Now!
– InSing: Commentary: Outcry over MDA’s ruling not just about censorship
– TRE: Laws already exists to regulate news websites
– TRE: The real reason behind the Internet Crackdown
– Asiaone: New rules ‘will make netizens more cynical’
– Wired.co.uk: Singapore’s websites must pay to mention Sg block LGBT

– Andrew Loh: #FreeMyInternet – Internet regulations saga takes bizarre turn
– Breakfast Network: Breakfast Network on Talking Point tonight
– SG Web Reviews: Civil Servant Buying $10 million condo unit
– Singapore Armchair Critic: Fight Internet Censorship, Free Your Mind
– Political Writings: What Are You Really Up To?
– A Yummy Slice of Life: To hell with thinking
– AndyXianWong: MDA’s absurd pretence of parity
– DKSG: #FreeMyInternet – How to take part?
– TRE: Proof that new MDA rulings are politically motivated


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