Friday, 22 September 2023

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Hypersensitivity, not warranted

TOC Editorial

The Online Citizen is concerned about the latest attempts by the government to clamp down on Singapore’s online space – specifically, forcing new website The Independent Singapore to be class-licensed under the Broadcasting Act.

Our government has never been adept at engaging its citizens online, but this latest example highlights its intention to continue utilising the blunt end of legislation to quell criticism.

While the sensible course of action would be to engage any opposing voice robustly and openly, our government has instead opted for the excesses of regulatory recourse.

In the case of The Independent,the public is still left uncertain about the specific circumstances of the website’s alleged association with foreign funding. The Independent has stated categorically to the contrary, and MDA has yet to justify its actions.

Such opacity can only have a chilling effect on online enterprises, as any website that seeks commercial viability would now have no clearer idea of how they can potentially run afoul of the law. That such unjustified actions should be directed at a website that has yet to be launched again speaks of the animus that our government has towards the online community.

Sadly, this has only been confirmed by our Defence Minister, who claims “distortions, rumours, untruths, misinformation and smears” online are a threat to national security. Such intemperate language can come across as fear-mongering. Such fear is not well substantiated, as Dr Ng has not given examples of how chaos has taken place in Singapore as a result of “DRUMS”.

In short, our government needs to stop promoting a fear of the Internet, and start taking affirmative actions when citizens cry out online for attention. Singaporeans are smart enough to see through unsubstantiated fear-mongering. Perhaps its time they got off their soap box, and did some real engagement instead.

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