For some trying to access States Times Review from their devices, they are now greeted with a blank screen that states, "The website that you are trying to access is unavailable as it contains prohibited material."
The social-political site which is based in Australia had earlier been ordered to take down an article entitled, "Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB’s key investigation target", which was published on Monday (5 Nov). The article claimed that editor-in-chief of investigative journalism platform Sarawak Report (SR) Ms Clare Rewcastle had mentioned Singapore as "one of the key investigation targets, alongside Switzerland and United States" in the 1MDB scandal during an interview with Malaysian media.
SR rebutted the claim via Facebook on Thursday (8 Nov), calling it "misleading" and "erroneous," and made a request for STR to "correct the false claim."
The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) earlier declared that the controversial article is "baseless and defamatory," and ordered a takedown of the article by Friday (9 Nov) 5pm. IMDA had warned that it will "direct Internet Service Providers to restrict access to the site.", should STR fail to remove the offending article from itswebsite . It has also shared that it "also asked Facebook to deny access to the post" linked to the offending article.
In its press release, IMDA justified the order on the grounds that the article has "undermined public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore Government," and is thus deemed to be "objectionable on grounds of public interest," adding that the allegations present in the article would "constitute prohibited content under IMDA’s Internet Code of Practice."
In response to IMDA's demand, Alex Tan, editor of the publication wrote that the site will refuse to remove the alleged offending article.
"If the Singaporean Prime Minister is adamant on being innocent, he or his acting proxies, i.e. Monetary Authority of Singapore and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), is welcomed to file a case with the Australian authorities...The website will refuse to bow down to the dictatorship’s draconian censorship order or accept any arbitrary order naming any content as “fake news”. I will wear the ban and the falsified charges as a badge of honour." wrote Tan in a blog post.
Tan also disregarded the email sent by the director of IMDA seeking the removal of the article and replied the email with a single phrase of vulgarity.
Subsequently, in a posting on STR's website and its Facebook page on late Friday evening, the publication wrote:
The States Times Review website has been blocked under false charges of "fake news" and "criminal defamation" laid by the Singapore dictatorship.
As such, the website will cease and desist considering that it lost a channel to reach Singaporeans.
Thank you for your support over the past 3 years for STR, and for those who has been faithfully following my articles for the 3 years at TRS and 2 years at TR.
The sacrificial of my Singaporean passport is my last gift to my beloved Singapore and Singaporeans.
Hereon, I will also announce that I have decided to stop writing and continue my life in Australia.
This Facebook page will shut down in 2 weeks from now but the website will remain until the General Elections is over. Do take note that this shut down notice is of my own volition, and not pressure from anyone or the dictatorship. I have no intention to impugn my integrity bending forward for a scum government.
It has been an honour serving Singaporeans. Thank you.
Separately, Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has announced on Friday that it has lodged a police report against the author of the STR article for alleged criminal defamation, on the grounds that the article has tarred the credibility and integrity of MAS as a financial regulator.