3 things we noticed in the aftermath of The Real Singapore’s sudden demise
Who will be next on MDA's list?
Update, May 5, 2015, 12pm:
TR Emeritus has replied to this article. They said the site is prepared for any developments pertaining to any action by the authorities.
They have also clarified that since The Real Singapore’s demise, they have yet to receive any spikes in readership. And at this point in time, the impact of TRS’s demise on TR Emeritus is speculative.
In case you were away overseas during the May Day long weekend, the big news has been and still is the demise of socio-political site The Real Singapore.
On May 3, TRS was asked by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to shut down within 6 hours. TRS editors, 24-year-old Australian Ai Takagi and 26-year-old Singaporean Yang Kaiheng, complied and TRS disappeared from the online world yesterday evening.
Here are three things we noticed after the sudden departure of The Real Singapore.
1. Most sites of note have “lim kopi” with MDA, except Temasek Review Emeritus.
There are a few non-Singapore Press Holdings and non-Mediacorp sites that cover socio-political issues and have a wide online reach – Yahoo News, The Online Citizen, Mothership.sg, Temasek Review Emeritus, and The Real Singapore.
In the past two years, MDA has asked the operators of four sites — The Independent.sg, Breakfast Network, Mothership.sg, The Online Citizen, to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification. All except the now defunct Breakfast Network complied with the request.
MDA also notified Yahoo News to obtain an individual license and put up a performance bond of S$50,000, like all other individually-licensed broadcasters.
And we know what happened to The Real Singapore when MDA contacted them yesterday.
This leaves us with Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE).
TRE started as TR in 2009 and was renamed TRE on May 25, 2011.
Perceived as possibly the most aggressive anti-establishment site alongside TRS, TRE got into trouble in 2012 when its editor had to apologise for an alleged defamatory post involving Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s wife, Madam Ho Ching.
What will happen to TRE following TRS’ death?
More web traffic to the site?
Or perhaps a call from MDA?
2. The online reactions among Internet opinion-leaders were more negative than positive.
The FreeMyInternet movement, a collective of bloggers
The Online Citizen editor Andrew Loh
Former TOC Editor Ravi Philemon
Blogfather Mr Brown
So now that MDA has shown they can take down a site like TRS, how about STOMP next? How about it, MDA?
— mrbrown (@mrbrown) May 3, 2015
Journalist and writer Kirsten Han
Much as I detest TRS as a website, we shouldn’t be using draconian rules to shut them down. Surely we as a society need better ways to deal. — Kirsten Han (@kixes) May 3, 2015
CPF blogger Roy Ngerng
MP Zaqy Mohamad
Former NMP Calvin Cheng
Poet Gwee Li Sui
3. If things turn out badly, MDA’s light-touch approach may evolve into a Singapore firewall.
On its website, MDA stated that its approach to regulating content on the Internet is a practical and light-touch one. But it has moved to request a shut down of a non-pornographic website for the first time using the Broadcasting Act.
Yang’s application to visit his critically-ill father in Australia is approved today and he is out on a $60,000 bail.
According to The Straits Times, Yang and Takagi will not be allowed to operate TRS permanently if the license is cancelled. ST noted that MDA will also be able to take other actions, including blocking access to the site.
Currently, the MDA blocks a list of 100 Web sites (primarily pornography) as a “symbolic statement” of the country’s societal values.
This approach is generally accepted by most in the society. Such objectionable content can be referred in Section 4, Prohibited Material (2) (a), (b), (c), (d), (e) of the Internet Code of Practice.
4.-(1) Prohibited material is material that is objectionable on the grounds of public
interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is
otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws.
(2) In considering what is prohibited material, the following factors should be
taken into account:-
(a) whether the material depicts nudity or genitalia in a manner calculated
(b) whether the material promotes sexual violence or sexual activity
involving coercion or non-consent of any kind;
(c) whether the material depicts a person or persons clearly engaged in
explicit sexual activity;
(d) whether the material depicts a person who is, or appears to be, under
16 years of age in sexual activity, in a sexually provocative manner or in
any other offensive manner;
(e) whether the material advocates homosexuality or lesbianism, or
depicts or promotes incest, paedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia;
(f) whether the material depicts detailed or relished acts of extreme
violence or cruelty;
(g) whether the material glorifies, incites or endorses ethnic, racial or
religious hatred, strife or intolerance
Should Yang decide not to return to Singapore by May 17 and to operate TRS from Australia, MDA will need to resort to blocking the site.
This may be one of the first time that a site is blocked for reasons other than pornography.
Will this worst-case scenario be the start of a slippery slope from MDA’s “light-touch” approach?
We have until May 17 to find out whether Singapore will take its baby steps towards the direction similar to China’s Great Firewall approach.