Web ‘blackout’ in Singapore to protest new online rules

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SINGAPORE—Over 130 Singaporean bloggers blacked out their homepages Thursday to protest new licensing rules for news websites they say will muzzle freedom of expression.

The 134 participants, including individual bloggers and community-based blogs, replaced their homepages with black screens featuring the words “#FreeMyInternet”, as well as the time and venue of a rally to be held Saturday. The 24-hour blackout was to last until midnight.

The protest comes after surprise regulations came into force on June 1 requiring news websites — including one operated by US-based Yahoo! — to obtain licenses from the city-state’s official media regulator.

“This is not just a movement by socio-political blogs. The participating websites are from all genres from lifestyle and food, to technology,” said Choo Zheng Xi, a spokesman for the “Free My Internet” group that organized the protest.

“The diversity reflects an awareness that the new regulations can affect anyone because it has been framed so widely,” added Choo, the co-founder of popular political website The Online Citizen.

A rally will be held Saturday at a designated free-speech area, where police permits are not required.

Singapore’s media regulator, the Media Development Authority (MDA), and government leaders have sought to allay fears over the past week that the new rules were aimed at the feisty blogging community, pointing out that blogs were not considered news portals.

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim on Tuesday dismissed claims by bloggers that the new rules would impinge on Internet freedom.

“I think the best way for people to see, after the licenses are issued, is whether the activists are indeed limited in their public discourse,” he told the local media.

“I hope that the activists who are today making this far-fetched claim will be honest enough to admit it when the time comes.”

Bloggers participating in the Internet blackout insisted that the broad power of the new rules were indicative of the government’s intentions to require blogs to seek licensing in the future as well.

The new rules stipulate that websites which have at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish at least one local news article per week over a period of two months must obtain an annual license.

“Although the government would say that my fears are ‘far-fetched’ and that I am over-reacting, I’m not happy to ‘wait and see’,” Kirsten Han, a socio-political blogger, told Agence France-Presse.

“I don’t want to leave it up to trust that they won’t make use of the catch-all definitions to extend the licensing regime to other websites and blogs in the future,” she said.

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  • kilabot

    sg govt is right.
    nobody should be given
    blanket freedom on anything;
    without regulations abuse follows;
    freedom is twin brother of responsibility;
    only those with bad intentions oppose regulations;
    even religion has commandments.

    • Poormanphysics

      Exactly a socialist and communistic formula which brought misery, death of millions and its failure and error that lasted and its death after 40 years in Europe and USSR, read your history books or just watch your history channel. They also have a population problem – they are aging no one is marrying no one is having more children in fact they rallied (locals) and show their discontent that their government is approving a legislation to increase the number of workers for more engineers, experts, technicians etc. because they figured out that 10 years already into the future no Singaporean local or the lack of them will be able to support their economy to grow it.

  • Poormanphysics

    I once engaged a conversation with a Singaporean citizen who sells software in the Philippines a bright entrepreneur well educated and cultured fellow . He said Singapore is so repressive its economies is simply controlled by 2-3 families and guess what he said it is the most modern communist country in the world! The taxing systems sucks (they also earn a lot from talents of Filipino engineers, scientists and domestics) He longed to see that the system will ultimately burst. Come to think of it the origins of Singapore is a nation created by political clans only driven by business dominance this is the starting model of Singapore and they exist because of that even now.

    • foreignerph

      Taxes in Sg are lower than in most developed EU countries, and I don’t see how taxes have anything to do with the new media regulation. The situation in the PH is worse, where no media company may be owned (even partially) by foreign sources and where all media (except for blogs) are dependent on a state license.

  • disqus_ZrxaGjUzMQ

    ATTENTION SINGAPOREAN: SELL YOUR SINGAPORE HOUSE and move to METRO MANILA PHILIPPINE — YOU can blog about singapore all you want in philippine islands kingdom

    • kismaytami

      We already have an overflowing population of chinese. Better invite them to china where most of them belong.

      • disqus_ZrxaGjUzMQ

        these singaporean chinese cannot survive under the curtain of communist chinese govt

    • foreignerph

      The choice between Sg and the Gates of Hell is a no-brainer. Anyways, where the servers are or where the blogger lives doesn’t matter in this new regulation. Any significant site, even hosted in the US, that has at least one article per month about Sg needs the permission.

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