Saturday, 30 September 2023

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Undying Phoenix: TOC navigates regulatory restrictions with a revamped approach

On 21 July 2023, the Ministry of Communications and Information, under the leadership of Minister Josephine Teo, declared The Online Citizen Asia’s (TOC) website and social media platforms as Declared Online Locations (DOL) according to the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act 2019 (POFMA).

This decision follows a series of alleged false statements propagated by TOC, with the most recent incident reported on 2 May.

Amidst a politically charged environment characterized by scandals involving the People’s Action Party and increasing public mistrust towards the ruling government, TOC will continue to operate, albeit under significant constraints, despite the regulatory restrictions imposed.

The DOL declaration mandates that TOC must carry a public notice on its online platforms, which indicates its alleged history of disseminating misinformation.

The POFMA Office, however, clarified that TOC can continue its operations, retaining its website and social media pages under stringent regulations, particularly concerning monetization.

According to Part 5 of the POFMA, TOC is prohibited from gaining financial or material benefits from its operations. Additionally, offering financial support to TOC is equally unlawful. For the next two years, TOC will be compelled to self-sustain, relying solely on its resources without any public backing.

It strikes TOC as notably ironic that the Singapore government, eager to stymie our operations to prevent the spread of “fake news”, simultaneously demonstrates a fervour to invest S$900 million of taxpayer funds into the SPH Media Trust, currently embroiled in a data misrepresentation scandal. This dichotomy indeed presents a masterclass in cognitive dissonance.

Despite these significant constraints, TOC views this as an opportunity to revert to its roots, replicating the enthusiasm and drive that characterized our operation following our establishment in 2006.

Our existing staff will transition to a new publication, Gutzy Asia, focusing on news from Greater Asia, while TOC will refocus on its primary subject, Singapore, hence dropping the Asia subtext.

In this transition, we invite volunteers passionate about journalism and holding power to account to join us in our mission. We also welcome contributions from Singapore’s political parties, offering them a platform to express their perspectives and provide updates.

While this change may result in a decrease in content volume and frequency, we assure our supporters that our commitment to truth and transparency remains steadfast. We are legally obliged not to seek financial aid, but we hope our supporters will provide us with manpower and information support.

We are resolute in our decision to continue TOC’s operations, standing in defiance against attempts to silence dissent through lawsuits and intimidating regulations. We are here to serve the people, and we will continue our mission with determination and resilience.

To keep up to date with the publication: Follow The Online Citizen via telegram (Gutzy Asia’s posts are included)

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