The Online Citizen has been informed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) on Tuesday (6 Feb) that the website is required to be registered with it, pursuant to condition 4 of the Schedule to the Broadcasting (Class Licence) notification. Just before the notification by IMDA came, TOC was informed by the Registrar of Political Donations that it has been removed as a political association under the Political Donations Act.
Condition 4 of the schedule reads: “An Internet Content Provider who is or is determined by the Authority to be a body of persons engaged in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political or religious issues relating to Singapore on the World Wide Web through the Internet, shall register with the Authority within 14 days after the commencement of its service, or within such longer time as the Authority may permit.”
Implications as a result of registration will be that the director of the company registered with IMDA will be responsible for all content published by the website and all sources of revenue, whether is it a $1 donation or advertising fee to the website, must be declared to IMDA on a monthly basis.
Websites such as “Five Star One Moon” are not asked by IMDA to register. “Five Star One Moon” is the online publication that broke the story of blogger Roy Ngerng’s dismissal by Tan Tock Seng hospital, in fact, the website published the news even before the embargo was lifted and publish news and commentaries on Singapore news on a regular basis. Unscrambled.sg is also another such website that publishes local news on a near-daily basis. Many websites like the mentioned two exist and there is no information as to who funds the websites and how they are funded (No advertising).
The only entities known to have been asked by IMDA to register under this particular condition, are defunct social-political website The Middle Ground, The Independent Singapore and The Opinion Collaborative (The entity that formerly housed TOC).
Prima facie, IMDA’s registration targets sites that are not pro-govt narrative.
On a principle point of view, the website objects to the requirement to register, given that the site already answers to ACRA as a registered company and Singapore laws allow investigations into the site if there is any suspicion of foreign intervention. Furthermore, IMDA’s selection of publications for registration has strong leaning of being biased and the whole process is nothing but intimidate website owners and potential donors and business supporters from funding the publications.
However, despite it is not a choice that TOC can make whether to register or not if it is to continue its operations in Singapore. The website will be engaging with IMDA to move forward in regards to the registration process.