Media start-up New Naratif’s plan to form company in Singapore rejected

A recently-launched South East Asian news site has seen its efforts to form a subsidiary company in Singapore rebuffed due to its alleged funding links to billionaire George Soros.

New Naratif, a subscription-based media outlet that was founded by journalist Kirsten Han and historian PJ Thum last year, attempted to register the company OSEA in a bid to give the website a more secure legal footing in the country.

However, its application has been rejected by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority due to its motives being “clearly political in nature”. In order to bypass Singapore’s strict media laws, OSEA was originally registered in the United Kingdom – with a the new subsidiary to be called Observatory Southeast Asia

In the ruling, ACRA cited the UK company’s funding of S$98,000 from a Swiss charitable entity, Foundation Open Society Institute, which is associated with Soros’ charity the Open Society Foundations (OSF). A statement by ACRA said: “OSF and FOSI, and other foreign philanthropies and groups, can fund whatever causes they like elsewhere.

“In Singapore, however, our position is that none of them can be allowed to fund Singaporean organisations or individuals participating in our domestic politics. The registration of OSEA Pte Ltd would therefore be contrary to Singapore’s national interests.

“Singapore’s politics should be for Singaporeans alone to determine. We should not allow foreigners to interfere in how we should govern our country. Nor should we allow any group of Singaporeans to lend themselves to being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore.”

Speaking to Mumbrella, Han said the ruling would not affect the running of New Naratif. The platform also issued a response to ACRA today, whereby it said: “Any notion that we are, as ACRA alleges, “being used by foreigners to pursue a political activity in Singapore” is unfounded.

“New Naratif is substantially supported by revenue from its members, who subscribe at levels between US$52 and US$552 per year. We have over 420 members in 17 different countries, and have also received numerous donations from individuals. On top of this, we are also honoured to be the recipient of a grant from a prestigious international funding body, Foundation Open Societies Institute (FOSI).

“FOSI and the Open Society Foundations (OSF) do not have any involvement or input in New Naratif’s editorial decisions or the day-to-day running of our start-up.”

Han and Thum recently made headlines following their appearance during the Select Committee hearings on deliberate online falsehoods.


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