Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Our nation-building Press

Update 31 May 2013 - Internet Code of Conduct

Singapore hits record low in World Press Freedom Index ranking

Singapore fell 14 places to a record low of 149th position from the previous 135th position in terms of press freedom index in the latest annual ranking by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) [Link].

It is Singapore’s worst ranking since the index was established in 2002. Singapore is even behind countries like Ethiopia (137th), Tunisia (138th), Oman (141st), Congo (142nd), Cambodia (143rd) and Russia (148th).

In the past 1 year or so, there have been many instances where letters of demand were sent to bloggers and websites, asking them to apologize and take down postings which allegedly had defamed government ministers or the court. 

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Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that Singapore’s leading news websites will have to apply to the city-state’s Media Development Authority (MDA) for a publishing licence.

According to the MDA, which regulates the media, news websites with a Singaporean IP address and more than 50,000 visitors a month will have to obtain a licence from 1 June in order to continue operating.

“While it is understandable that radio and TV stations should be licenced, because of the limited number of broadcast channels and the need to regulate frequencies, imposing a licencing system on news websites is utterly absurd and cannot be justified by a need for a ‘more consistent regulatory framework,’ as the MDA has suggested,” Reporters Without Borders said.

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Singapore falls to record-low place in press freedom ranking
Singapore achieved its worst-ever press freedom ranking in an annual report by Reporters Without Borders (Yahoo! file photo)

Singapore fell 14 places to a record 149th position in terms of press freedom, according to an annual report by non-governmental organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB).

Coming ahead of World Press Freedom Day, which was observed Friday, the report showed this is the city-state’s worst performance since the index was established in 2002.

On the list, Singapore is wedged in between Russia and Iraq, with Myanmar just two places behind. The former junta-led country jumped up 18 spots in this year’s ranking.

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New MDA licensing scheme becomes fodder for Singapore satire

AFP News/Liu Jin - 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 

While many people reacted with anger to the news that Singapore would regulate online news sites, including Yahoo! Singapore’s, some took the opportunity to make fun of the move.

A Tumblr blog called “Simisai (whatever s**t) Also Licence” was put up on Wednesday to provide a spurious list of other activities that would require a licence.

Here are some items on the list: If you light more than 50 joss sticks a month, you are required to apply for an Incense Licence

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SDP and NSP on Govt's move to license news website

SDP regrets Govt’s move to license news websites
It is with deep regret that the SDP learns that the Government is going to amend the Broadcasting Act to require news websites to register with the Media Development Authority. This is a regressive step which will have the effect of impeding the free flow of information and the development of a free and pluralistic media in Singapore. Full statement

NSP: New Internet Media Regulation a Step Backwards
The National Solidarity Party (NSP) is deeply concerned by the Media Development Authority's (MDA) announcement on the 28th of May, of a new regulatory regime for internet media companies that regularly report on Singapore news. It is puzzling that at a time when it should be promoting more open and frank discussion about national issues, the Government has instead seen fit to increase regulation on a media landscape that is already tightly controlled. Full statement

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Simisai also licence

Ministers who touch more than 500 bananas are required to apply for a Touch My Banana Licence.

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Internet Code of Conduct

– Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: Is this “Singapore news and current affairs”?
– Signs of Struggle: MDA should give $50,000 a year to good, responsible news sites
– Dewdrop Notes 露语: The Axe Falls
– Article 14: From licensing to regulation of content
– DKSG: MDA to regulate online news sites with significant reach
– Bears Roam Free: Dirty PAP uses underhand backdoor method to control New Media
– Breakfast Network: How the G came up with the licensing plan
– Blogging 4 Myself: MDA new rules on websites
– Spotlight on Spore: Curbing online dissent in Singapore: MDA regulates online media
– Heart Truths: Letter to MDA: Feedback on New Licensing Framework for Online News
– A Singaporean in Australia: Yahoo! Singapore News Under Heavy Siege
– Ravi Philemon: MDA’s new licensing framework may be misused for political reasons
– sparrows and sandcastles: why is “singapore” doing this???
– Rachel Zeng: On MDA’s new licensing framework
– Sgpolitics: MDA’s new licensing scheme a cover for more oppressive authoritarian
– My Singapore News: International websites to apply licence
– 1N-103E: Proceedings from the “The Spore Computer Society’s Internet Regulation
– Publichouse: Gov’t continues to be out of touch
– Publichouse: Gov’t reneges on ‘light touch’ promise
– TRE: Tech lawyer: New MDA ruling is too broad
– ZDNet: S’pore instills new licensing rule for online news sites
– Mr Brown: MDA displays its light touch once again

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S’poreans mock inSing News for failing to make it into MDA top 10 list

Singaporeans from all walks of life are getting together to slap their thighs and fall over with hysterical laughter, while pointing their mocking finger at inSing News.

One Singaporean, Chio Ka Peng, said while wiping tears of hysteria from his eyes: “Even Stomp made it!” Another Singaporean, Jin Buay Kan, said while stopping his sides from splitting open: “inSing is probably not a real news provider. They should alert their advertisers to this development.”

One other Singaporean, who laughed so hard he had to be rushed to A&E twice, said: “Nobody reads inSing News anyways.”

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Singaporean online community angered by new media rule

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 media, 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.

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The trouble with trying to control the Internet

On January 18 last year, anyone who tried to do a search on Google would have found the company's multi-coloured logo blacked out on the site. At the same time, over at Wikipedia, none of the millions of articles were accessible

The pattern was repeated across some of the web's biggest brands. Amazon, Imgur, Flickr, Pinterest, Wordpress, Craigslist and many others had parts of all of their sites blacked out.

But this was not an attack by hackers. This was a protest.

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MDA claims new licensing framework not intended to curb internet freedom, do you believe them?

XIN MSN News, 29 May 2013

The Media Development Authority (MDA) said the new individual licensing framework for online news sites is not intended to clamp down on internet freedom.

A day after announcing the changes, MDA said the new framework provides greater clarity on prevailing content standards in the Internet Code of Practice. Full story

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OPINION: The Evil That Men Do

Singapore Notes, 30 May 2013 
Look who's leaping from flood waters into hot water. Cornered by the tsunami of backlash against the proposed news website licensing requirements, Yaacob Ibrahim dismissed it in monetary terms as "just a banker's guarantee", arguing that no upfront payment is involved.

The examples they cite as sites affected - Media Corp, Singapore Press Holding and Yahooo! News Singapore - all have deep pockets, but anybody with an IQ higher than the water logged minister knows that there are lots more individually operated websites that fall easily under the technical qualification of a "significant reach exceeding 50,000".

Opposition MP Lina Chiam spoke for us when she asked the obvious, "How is a news website to be defined?" Full story

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Singapore’s Licensing Rules for News Websites Spark Criticism

A Singapore regulation requiring websites that regularly publish news on the city state to be licensed has sparked criticism among opposition groups who said the government move is “regressive.”

The rule could impede the free flow of information and the development of media in the country, the Singapore Democratic Party said in a statement. The National Solidarity Party said greater regulation of an industry that is already licensed is “puzzling,” as more discussion is needed on national issues. Neither party has representatives in Parliament.

Singapore dropped 14 places in a 2013 press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, ranking 149 out of 179 countries. The MDA said the 10 websites will fall under the new licensing rules from June 1, and that others will be notified when they meet the criteria

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MDA to regulate online news sites with significant reach

This whole thing seems like a badly written framework that is implemented without consulting the public. And the new licensing framework leave many questions unanswered.

1) What if a site is deemed by MDA to have met the criteria but couldn’t pay the $50,000 bond? Does that mean the site need to be shut down or stop reporting Singapore news?

2) What if a news website refuse to comply? What are the penalties? Will these sites be blocked by local ISP?

3) What about websites/blogs hosted on server outside Singapore? Can MDA regulate these sites?

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S'pore instills new licensing rule for online news sites

Sites reporting on Singapore news will require individual licenses if they meet the stipulated criteria

Online news sites reporting on local issues will now need an individual license from content regulator, Media Development Authority (MDA), as the Singapore government seeks more consistency with traditional news platforms.

In a statement released today, MDA said the new requirement will take effect June 1, 2013, for news sites with significant reach among readers and that report regularly on Singapore. The move is aimed at putting these platforms on par with traditional news agencies which already are individually licensed, and creating a more consistent regulatory framework, the regulator said

News sites currently are automatically licensed under the Broadcasting Act. With the new ruling, the sites will require individual licenses if they report at least one article a week on news related to Singapore over a period of two months, and have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month over a period of two months.

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New MDA licensing scheme for news websites

Sites like will soon have to apply for an individual license to operate

From June 1, websites that regularly report Singapore news and have significant reach will require individual licenses to operate

Currently, most websites are covered automatically under a class licence scheme. But the Media Development Authority (MDA) will require websites to be individually licensed once they meet two criteria.

These are: if they report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs over a period of two months, and have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore each month over a period of two months. The individual licenses have to be renewed every year.

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Singapore to regulate Yahoo!, other online news sites

Websites that regularly report on Singapore including Yahoo! News will have to get a license from June 1, putting them on par with newspapers and television new outlets, in a move seen by some as a bid to rein in free-wheeling Internet news. 

"Online news sites that report regularly on issues relating to Singapore and have significant reach among readers here will require an individual licence," Singapore's Media Development Authority (MDA) said in a statement.

"This will place them on a more consistent regulatory framework with traditional news platforms which are already individually licensed," the media regulator said.

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Yahoo! Singapore News Under Heavy Siege

Only online news websites need apply licence to report facts publish news. You socio-political sites must be heaving a sigh of relief. Will they stop at this and leave 'alternative new sites' alone? Don't hold your breath. If When that happens, it will be time for naughty bloggers to worry as well.

Not me though, I'm safe - unless they bring down the criteria to 50 unique visitors a month or something. I'm not gloating here. In fact I feel disappointed with the Singapore Government yet again - I'll tell you why. 

What does this new license regime do? In a nutshell, it allows MDA to remove any content on any 'licenced' website within 24 hours from an MDA directive. Any content that they find to be in a "breach of standard." This is 2013 so let's not kid ourselves. This is Singapore, not North Korea. Can Singaporeans please ask themselves why did the staff of MDA spent manhours of taxpayers' money to derive a new policy that only affects 10 parties namely:

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MDA new rules on websites

The new measures are understandably unpopular among those who comment on the local scene. The government will have Yahoo News in its net come Saturday. Netizens feared that many of their favorite and highly trafficked sites will be next. It has already got TOC worried. I haven't seen TRE put out their response.

I think the fear is overdone. This is like DRM or software copy protection in the old days. It wouldn't work. In fact the government will lose and their trust capital will diminish further. Also this government cannot use Chinese methods as it has to face the voters every five years. Additionally unlike China, we are small and open. Didn't help the government that want control that our mainstay language is English.

Government measures to rein us in can only inconvenience us at worst. If you do not know how to be shrewd in responding to the government, you don't deserve to triumph or get voters' support. Interestingly the alternative political parties have such small Internet footprints. They are clever. As for me, what do I care? I am only blogging for myself and family.

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Latest govt control on online media 

The latest announcement by the MDA to control online media is out and will be effective on 1 June. 10 sites have been identified as online news website and will come under the new regulation. They are :


According to CNA online 'Only online news sites which fulfil two specific criteria will be subjected to individual licensing.

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TOC’s statement on MDA licensing of online news sites

The new requirements have extended an additional layer of compliance to online news sites which do not have a media license like Yahoo!News.

In principle, this could mean that the requirements could be extended to not-for-profit websites like TOC, as the new regime makes no distinction between commercial news sites and volunteer run websites like TOC.

Based on publicly available data of visitorship statistics for TOC and the regularity of our posts on Singapore news and current affairs, it would appear that the licensing regime could apply to TOC.

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Full coverage

NDTV - ‎18 minutes ago‎

Singapore: Websites that regularly report on Singapore including Yahoo! News will have to get a license from June 1, putting them on par with newspapers and television new outlets, in a move seen by some as a bid to rein in free-wheeling Internet news - ‎35 minutes ago‎
SINGAPORE — Singapore's official media watchdog Tuesday announced licensing rules for news websites, including the local Yahoo! portal, that will subject them to the same regulations as traditional media. From June 1, websites which have more than ...

Channel News Asia - ‎1 hour ago‎
Online news sites which report regularly on Singapore and have significant reach will be required to have an individual licence, with effect from June 1. PHOTOS. A screenshot of Channel NewsAsia's website, Enlarge; Caption ...

The Next Web - ‎1 hour ago‎
The Singapore government has taken steps to supervise websites that cover local news, which is likely to stir up a heated debate about press freedom in the city-state. The Media Development Authority said in a press statement that sites reporting an average ...

AsiaOne - ‎46 minutes ago‎
SINGAPORE - From June 1, websites that regularly report Singapore news and have significant reach will require individual licences to operate. Currently, most websites are covered automatically under a class licence scheme. But the Media Development ...

ZDNet - ‎4 hours ago‎

Summary: Content regulator Media Development Authority says news sites with significant reader reach and report regularly on Singapore will now need individual licenses. Local lawyer, though, urges further clarification. Eileen Yu. By Eileen Yu | May 28, ...

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Oh joy, our economy’s bubbling again, says our nation-building press

Few things annoy me as much as when our nation-building press gets carried away. Today’s front page of the Straits Times has a headline “Singapore posts surprise Q1 growth”, leading a story that speaks — as breathlessly as a teenage groupie — of “good news”.

It quotes unnamed economists saying that “the numbers point to the resilience of the Singapore economy”. Then it gives the Star Award to the financial services sector, reporting — wrongly — that it grew “about 51 per cent over the previous quarter”, before discussing other sectors such as construction and manufacturing.

Of the latter, it reported that it “contracted 4.7 per cent over the year.” Wrong again. It actually contracted by 10.4 percent when measured at current prices, and contracted 6.8 percent when measured in constant 2005 dollars. These are Greek-style plunges.
Kishore Mahbubani: Freedom of the Press in Singapore