Holding onto my hat

Holding onto my hat
Showing posts with label online news sites. Show all posts
Showing posts with label online news sites. Show all posts

Sunday, June 2, 2013

My thoughts on the new MDA licensing regime

On 28 May 2013, the Media Development Authority (MDA) announced the introduction of a new licensing regime to take effect from 1 June 2013. Under this new regulation, "online news sites that report regularly on issues relating to Singapore and have significant reach among readers here" will require an individual licence from MDA.

This would apply to websites that "(i) report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs over a period of two months, and (ii) are visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month over a period of two months". 

These websites would also have to put up a S$50,000 performance bond, and commit to removing any objectionable content within 24 hours.

MDA said that the new regime aims to place the internet platforms "on a more consistent regulatory framework with traditional news platforms which are already individually licensed". If consistency is desired, why not place the print media on par with the online media? 

Judging by the language of the new MDA rules, meritorious volunteer socio-political websites are caught. Such websites now are cast into a legal limbo, having to operate with the prospect of being required to be licensed hanging over their heads. If the MDA decides, they would be required to put up a $50K bond, which they cannot afford to. In contrast, MSM websites owned by profit-making, public-listed companies, would not have the same difficulties. 

It is discomforting that the Minister has the discretion, the limits of which is still unclear, to decide whether and when a website should be licensed. Freedom of speech is the bedrock of a democratic society, and as such it should be respected and carefully protected. We should never allow any fundamental constitutional liberty to be glibly trampled on.

Every Singaporean is a stakeholder in the well-being of our nation. Concerned citizens should be encouraged to play their part by expressing their views and offering their feedback. 

Enabling the expression of diverse views makes for good decision-making. To curtail and narrow variety of thought is to stifle growth and to limit solutions. 

Whatever may be the laudable premises on which the new licensing regime is said to serve, there will be a chilling effect on socio-political discourse. One hopes that the new regime is not a pretext by the incumbent to control dissenting or critical voices.  After all, it is easier to push ahead when there is lesser opposition.


Here is the link to find out the details of the protest to be held on 8 June 2013 at Hong Lim Park: http://www.facebook.com/events/185882738236629/

Here is the link to the online petition for the immediate withdrawal of the new licensing regime: http://www.petitions24.com/petition_for_the_immediate_withdrawal_of_the_licensing_regime

POSTSCRIPT: On 6 June 2013, this Blog joined more than 160 websites/blogs which blacked out their pages for 24 hrs in a mass online protest over MDA's new licensing regime.

Screen shot of this Blog when it was blacked out.