Activists organise public protest and 24-hour blog blackout over Singapore’s new rules for online news reporting

The Online CitizenA group of community bloggers in Singapore is organising a protest against new rules introduced by the citystate’s media regulator last week that have been criticised for trying to censor news reporting online.

The ‘Free My Internet’ movement, led by independent community blogging site The Online Citizen, is urging Singaporeans to publicly contest a new system that requires Singapore’s best-read news websites to take down stories deemed to breach the Media Development Authority’s news reporting guidelines in 24 hours.

“We want to rally support for our request to the Singapore government to immediately withdraw the new regulations by MDA,” Howard Lee, deputy chief editor at The Online Citizen told Mumbrella.

“But it should also serve to increase awareness of how this regulation is a violation of our constitutional rights, and why it is not just an issue for bloggers, but for every Singaporean who goes online for information,” he said.

The group is also calling on bloggers to blackout their websites for 24 hours as part of the protest.

The launch of the rally comes the day after the MDA put out a “clear the air” statement on its Facebook page in defense of the new regime. 

The government says the new rules, which require websites with internet traffic of more than 50,000 unique visitors a month to have a license and pay a “performance bond”, do not amount to censorship and do not apply to blogs – since in its view a blog “does not amount to news reporting.”

The rules have also been criticised for appearing to target Yahoo!, which is the only high-traffic news website in Singapore to not currently have a media license.

In an opinion piece written by the former general counsel for Yahoo! Southeast Asia Siew Kum Hong last week, the rules were said to “lack certainty or transparency”, because the announcement was made without publishing the license conditions.

The other ten websites include,, and

The MDA’s response in full:

1. The licensing framework only applies to sites that focus on reporting Singapore news and are notified by MDA that they meet the licensing criteria. An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his/her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting.

2. There is no change to the content standards for these news sites. Today, these sites already have to observe content guidelines under the Class Licence which require the sites to make best efforts to keep their sites free of harmful content which are against public interest, public morality, public order, public security and national harmony. These same class licensing guidelines will continue to apply under the individual licence.

3. MDA’s content guidelines are focused on core content concerns that would threaten the social fabric and national interests of our country. Examples include content that incites racial or religious hatred; misleads and causes mass panic; or advocates or promotes violence. 

4. The framework is not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites. 

5. MDA will only step in when complaints are raised to our attention, and we assess that the content is in breach of the content guidelines and merits action by the website owner. 

6. Takedown requests are not common. In the past two years, MDA has only issued one take-down notice for the “Innocence of Muslims” video.

7. The performance bond of $50,000 is pegged to that put up by niche broadcasters today, and need not necessarily entail cash up front. Licensees can consider options such as banker’s guarantee or insurance. MDA will be happy to engage in further discussions with any licensee who may have concerns about meeting the licence obligations.”

The protest is scheduled to be held at Speakers Corner on 8 June, between 4pm and 7pm.


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