TODAY Voices says FMI using newspaper as a “cover” to address MDA

TODAY Voices says FMI using newspaper as a “cover” to address MDA

FMI thumbnailThe FreeMyInternet group (FMI) has written to TODAY Voices in response to a letter the paper published, titled “Free Internet group’s ideas destructive to multiracialism” by Mr Eugene De Rozario.

However, TODAY has responded with the following:

“My deputy editor has asked for it to either be rewritten to address the writer’s concerns, rather than giving us an advertisement, or to address the Media Development Authority in your letter and not use our writer’s letter as a cover.”

FMI will not be re-writing our letter. We felt that we have adequately addressed Mr De Rozario’ points, as he seems to have confused FMI’s position with one of championing destructive speech, while our concern has always been MDA’s regulatory regime.

We would also like to remind Mr Carl Skadian, deputy chief editor of TODAY, that FMI does not need TODAY as “advertisement” or as a “cover” to address MDA. We have previously demonstrated our willingness to engage with MDA and MCI, and will continue to do so should they be open to discussion.

FMI’s letter, well within the 500-word limit set by TODAY Voices, is appended below in full.

Today letter to FMI statement 02We refer to the letter, “Free Internet group’s ideas destructive to multiracialism” (7 May) by Mr Eugene De Rozario.

Mr De Rozario, in raising the old spectre of fear about “audacious free speech” and how it would “get us or our loved ones killed” has completely missed the point of our statement and misrepresented the FreeMyInternet group (FMI).

FMI does not set out to “fight determinedly for Internet freedoms” without consideration for the safety of the nation.

Indeed, FMI has persistently been very concerned about the clarity and standards that the Media Development Authority (MDA) uses in its attempt to regulate Singapore’s internet community, without which MDA should cease all such attempts.

To date, we have received none such, and this clearly exemplifies MDA’s failings.

We note that MDA has recently clarified to MARUAH that, “in suspending TRS’ licence, the MDA had provided Yang and Takagi our grounds for doing so, including specifying the offending articles that contravened the Internet Code of Practice, and giving them seven days to explain why their licence should not be cancelled. They can also appeal against the suspension. Due process has been followed.”

This “due process” immediately raises concerns. Did MDA allow TRS to take corrective actions for these offensive articles before imposing a blanket ban? And isn’t banning an entire website over a few articles an overkill? Was TRS asked to explain the said articles, or the right of existence for the website?

Moreover, since MDA has indicated that TRS’ contents was “objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony”, does it mean members of public have raised concerns about TRS to MDA? What is the MDA’s investigation and evaluation process after receiving such concerns?

Mind, this has nothing to do with FMI’s demands, but MDA’s commitment that, should members of the public “come across instances” where a particular website “is in breach of the Internet Code of Practice”, we should “bring these to MDA’s attention and MDA will investigate accordingly”.

Finally, MDA has said that it “would still have initiated the suspension even if there were no sedition charges… As such, the issue of sub judice does not arise.” Would the courts then be amenable for someone else to use this line of defence, should they be faced with charges of sub judice contempt?

Is MDA’s action against TRS supposed to be representative of Singapore’s good reputation in due process and transparent governance?

As Mr De Rozario can see, FMI’s position in questioning MDA is not about championing freedom of speech, much as that remains one of our concerns. The move to shut down TRS highlights the need for the online community to interact with MDA on clear and reasonable grounds. MDA has thus far given us no reason to believe that such grounds exist.

A joint statement* by representatives of the FreeMyInternet group

* The above statement was made in exclusion of Mr Choo Zheng Xi, who is currently representing the editors of TRS in their court case.

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