Anonymous threatens Singapore government over clamp down on online news reporting

Anon: ""No government has the right to deprive their citizens the freedom of information," Pic: Yahoo! Singapore

Anon: “No government has the right to deprive their citizens the freedom of information.” Pic: Yahoo!

A video has appeared on YouTube featuring a figure wearing a Guy Fawkes mask who demands that the Singapore government overturns new licensing rules for the citystate’s most popular news websites.

“We demand you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you,” the masked figure claiming to be part of international hacker group Anonymous said, according to a story on Yahoo! Singapore.

The group also hacked a blog affiliated with Singapore’s best-read national newspaper The Straits Times shortly after, accusing an ST reporter of misleading readers in her article about the YouTube video.

In the video, Anonymous, who spoke with a computer generated voice, encouraged Singaporeans to take part in a protest against the Media Development Authority’s new rules for web news reporting on 5 November.

The video, which ran for three minutes and 40 seconds, has now been taken down from YouTube.

The figure made reference to one of its group, named “The Messiah”, breaking into a website run by the ruling PAP party and a local city council website, Yahoo! is reporting.

The voice said: “(The Messiah) demonstrated what a single Anon could do to your so-called technologically-advanced island. It revealed that apart form protesting the implementation of the Media Development Authority’s new licensing framework, the purpose of its “invasion” is to call on the government to “stop feigning ignorance and serve the people”.

“Have you forgotten who you work for?” they said, describing the new licensing regime as “ridiculous, communistic, oppressive and offensive”.

“No government has the right to deprive their citizens the freedom of information. We demand you reconsider the regulations of your framework or we will be forced to go to war with you.”

Shortly after, in a note that defaced ST journalist Irene Tham’s blog post about the video, The Messiah wrote:

She chose to conveniently modify the sentence “war against the Singapore Government” into “war against Singapore”. That in our opinion can be very misleading and unfortunately we suspect that must have been her intentions. Look what she made us do.

The hacker demanded an apology, and that the writer resign if the demand was not met. The article has now been removed.

Straits Times publisher Singapore Press Holdings has since filed a police report about the incident, and said that it stands by its story and its journalists.

The Singapore government’s IT department the Infocomm Development Authority took a number of government sites offline on Saturday, which the IDA has said on its Facebook page was for “planned maintenance”.

However other reports suggested that the switch-off of the Singapore Police Force website had led to an investigation – which the SPF has denied.

The SPF wrote on its Facebook page:

Many news articles and online websites have reported that Police are investigating into the above matter. However, Police would like to clarify that this is inaccurate and there is no such investigation going on. Misreporting by an earlier news article had led to the spread of this inaccurate information in other media and online websites.

The new licensing regime has divided opinion in Singapore. Activist group The Online Citizen held a public protest against the new system in June.

The new framework means that Singapore’s best-read 10 news websites must take down stories deemed to breach the MDA’s news reporting guidelines in 24 hours and pay a license fee.

The World Association of Newspapers told Mumbrella soon after the regime was announced:

Singapore showed good judgment when it acknowledged that at least tolerating a free and open internet was necessary if it wished to realize its ambitions to become a digital media hub.

But the new licensing scheme flies in the face of that approach – we hope it will not be used to silence and intimidate critical voices.


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