Singapore human rights group MARUAH has issed a statement to state it’s concerns about the Media Development Authority’s decision to close down The Real Singapore.
MARUAH’s Ppresident, Ms Braema Mathi, said that MDA should have identified to the TRS editors the specific content that was objectionable and gave them the right to justify why a shut down was not warranted, and for MDA to clearly justify its position.
The statement is appended in full below.
The suspension of The Real Singapore’s licence to operate raises important issues on the freedom of speech.
As a human rights organisation, MARUAH is deeply concerned with these, and recognises the complexities of reconciling the need for space for free expression and the need for responsible speech.
Much of the content of The Real Singapore goes against what we have championed, namely equality and non-discrimination.
The Real Singapore’s sensational journalism and encouragement of xenophobia against foreign workers do, indeed, have to be tackled.
However, the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) draconian measures are not the best way to do so, as they legitimise excessive intervention by the state and set a precedent for the diminution of our online space.
The draconian measures are also problematic in terms of their implementation.
As some people have pointed out, some other sites have been just as guilty in stirring hatred, but have been spared punishment.
We suggest that due process and natural justice require that the MDA, at a minimum, notify the editors of The Real Singapore of the specific items of content that the MDA believes to be unlawful, give them a reasonable opportunity to show why the site should not be ordered shut, and provide clear and detailed written grounds for its decision.
In particular, the MDA should explain why it decided to take action against The Real Singapore but not other sites that have published similar content, and why it believes the entire website had to be taken down instead of just the specific articles that it appropriately determines to be unlawful.
We also recommend that government officials openly and publicly engage bloggers and newsmakers of different ilk on an ongoing basis, to develop a better understanding of each other and to enable the Government to respond to inaccuracies and falsehoods in a more timely and effective manner.
The diversity of Singapore’s populace is reflected in the diversity of opinions online.
Censoring an entire platform without due process does Singapore and Singaporeans no favours, however much we may dislike its approach or the things it publishes.
Braema Mathi (Ms)
President, MARUAH Singapore