TOC’S FURTHER RESPONSE TO MDA’S LICENSING REGIME

We refer to the MDA’s comments in The Straits Times today. The comments state that TOC does not, at present, meet the new licensing requirements for online news sites announced yesterday.

MDA’s failure to explain application of licensing criteria

MDA’s statement fails to explain why the requirements do not apply to TOC at present, while hinting obliquely that they could apply to the website in the future.

Our internal statistics, a screenshot of which is attached, indicate that we meet the visitorship requirement for licensing. The nature of our coverage appears to fall within MDA’s second requirement for licensing.

tocstats_cloudflare

MDA’s failure to explain how it’s new policy is to be applied at present suggest that the manner in which it is being introduced is opaque and arbitrary, and does not give Singaporeans confidence in its clear application in the future.

TOC, as a largely volunteer run enterprise, cannot afford to labour under such continued legal uncertainty. The legal black hole we will be forced to operate in will hamstring our ability to recruit new volunteers.The licensing regime, if applied to volunteer run socio-political websites like TOC, will effectively cripple us. While the S$50,000 performance bond is a drop in the ocean for a mainstream news outlet with an online presence, it would potentially be beyond our means to raise.Hence, MDA’s claim that these regulations are intended to equalize the playing field between online and offline news is incorrect.

The opposite is true: the regulations will have a disproportionate and unequal impact on volunteer run websites like ours and effectively impair our ability to continue operating.

We call on MDA to provide much needed clarity on its new regulations, and to defer their implementation until such clarity is provided.

Call for full Parliamentary debate

Separately, we call on the Ministry of Communications and Information to table the licensing regime for a full debate in Parliament and to defer the implementation of the licensing regime.

It is not appropriate for Singaporeans’ constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech to be sweepingly curtailed by a regulating authority without any public consultation or oversight by our democratically elected legislature.

 

Choo Zheng Xi: Co-Founder, Consultant Editor
Terry Xu: Executive Editor
Howard Lee: Deputy Chief Editor
Lee Song Kwang: Core Team Member, Treasurer