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TOC removed as political association under Political Donations Act

The Online Citizen has been informed by the Registrar of Political Donations that it will be removed as a political association under the Political Donations Act with effect from Tuesday (6 Feb), this means that TOC will not need to declare its donations to the Prime Minister Office annually as it did for the past six years.

NOTICE OF DE-GAZETTE

We refer to our "Notice of Gazette" dated 17 February 2011 where we informed the then-responsible officers of "The Online Citizen" (TOC) that the Internet Content Providers (ICP) of TOC had been declared to be a political association for the purposes of the Political Donations Act. Since then, the circumstances surrounding the abovementioned declaration have changed and you have informed the Registrar of Political Donations that you currently remain the only responsible officer for TOC.

Please therefore be informed that TOC will be removed as a political association under the Political Donation Act with effect from 6 Feb 2018. For the avoidance of doubt, TOC will not be required to submit the annual donation report and declaration required under the Political Donation Act for Financial Year 2017.

Back in 2011, TOC was informed by the Prime Minister's office prior to the impending General Elections that the Prime Minister  "intends to declare the owners, editorial team, and administrators of The Online Citizen, by order in the Gazette, to be a political association for the purposes of the Political Donations Act. The owners, editorial team, and administrators of The Online Citizen have been determined to be an organization whose objects or activities relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore."

TOC had to face a choice between complying with the requirements of the gazetting else it had to close down.

After much deliberation by the editorial team back in 2011, TOC agreed to comply with the demands by having four individuals stood up to be named as the team behind TOC, and to bear the responsibilities and legal liability that comes with being gazetted as a political association.

When TOC was gazetted, the Registrar of Political Donations announced,

"The Attorney-General’s Chambers has advised that the internet content providers of “The Online Citizen” make up an organization whose activities relate
wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore. As a website, “The Online Citizen” provides coverage, commentary and analysis of political issues, and a platform for discussing
such issues. “The Online Citizen” has organised online and offline campaigns to change legislation and Government policies, provided a forum for local politicians,
and polls on public support for local politicians and on other political issues concerning Singapore. Through such activities, “The Online Citizen” has the potential to influence the opinions of their readership and shape political outcomes in Singapore. It is therefore necessary to ensure that it is not funded by foreign elements or sources.

In line with the objective to safeguard the integrity of the domestic political process, the Prime Minister has declared “The Online Citizen” as a Political Association under the Political Donations Act."

While the mission of TOC has not changed, but its status has changed over the years from a community blog which is managed by a group of volunteers, to a website that is held by a limited company and to its current status of a private limited company run by a sole individual.

Although TOC is now technically free to source for foreign donations and does not need to declare its donations, it is likely that it will be asked to register under other legislative frameworks in time to come, so as to keep the site in check. Nevertheless, the removal of TOC as a political association is a welcomed act to correct the unjustified gazetting of the community blog.

Update: True enough, TOC has just been informed by Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA) that the website is required to be registered with it, pursuant to condition 4 of the Schedule to the Broadcasting (Class Licence) notification.