Owner of Singapore political blog The Online Citizen notified to register for media licence

The Online CitizenThe owner of political blogging platform The Online Citizen has been instructed by Singapore’s media regulator to register for a broadcasting licence, and joins independent news websites The Independent and on the register as the Singapore government gets tougher with opposing voices online.

The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, which runs The Online Citizen has been notified that because the company is involved in the “propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore”, it must register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification of the Broadcasting Act.

A licensing framework for websites reporting on Singapore issues was introduced more than a year ago, but The Online Citizen’s owner has not been approached by Singapore’s Media Development Authority until now. TOC itself already has a licence.

In answer to Mumbrella’s questions about why the MDA has taken this action now, Howard Lee, commentaries editor for TOC told Mumbrella: “I would like to think that MDA is trying to apply regulation evenly to all parties – nothing more, actually. That is the very least that we can expect from a government agency.”

The MDA’s pressure to get a media licence, which involves paying a “performance bond” and removing articles the government does not approve of in 24 hours, led to the closure of the Breakfast Network in December last year.

The Independent was also leant on to register for a licence soon after it launched. was instructed to get a licence soon after, and for the same reason – to stop the site from gaining foreign backing.

The note from the MDA to The Opinion Collaborative reads:

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has, on 30 Sept 2014, notified The Opinion Collaborative Ltd (TOC Ltd), the corporate entity behind The Online Citizen (TOC), to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, which was enacted under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act.

MDA has assessed that the TOC website engages in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore. As a corporate entity, TOC Ltd is susceptible to foreign influence through the receipt of foreign funding. MDA will therefore require that TOC Ltd undertake not to receive foreign funding for its provision, management and/or operation as part of the registration. MDA’s registration requirement seeks to uphold the principle that politics must remain a matter for Singapore and Singaporeans alone.

The Online Citizen, which describes itself as an advocacy journalism platform, was one of the architects of the #FreeMyInternet movement in Singapore created to oppose the MDA’s rules for online news reporting.

The #FreeMyInternet movement criticised the MDA at the end of last year, calling the regulator “paranoid” for leaning too heavily on online news outlets in Singapore.


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