Bloggers appeal to MPs to take action on MDA regulations

The group of bloggers behind the #FreeMyInternet movement have sent a policy brief to MPs in the hopes of a "robust debate" in Parliament on the newly-introduced licensing regime. (Yahoo! file photo)

A group of Singapore bloggers protesting the new licensing rules for online news sites is urging the country's Members of Parliament (MPs) to push for debate on the issue, if not the withdrawal of the scheme altogether.

Leaders of the group called #FreeMyInternet forwarded a copy of an 11-page policy brief to all 87 elected MPs, the three non-constituency MPs, and the nine nominated MPs on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the implementation of the scheme was arbitrary and non-transparent, among other issues.

"An ideal media regulation regime should address concerns of online censorship and aspirations for a larger media and political space online," the group said in its brief, stressing the need for a "conducive and predictable" legal environment to help local players flourish.

In their email to the MPs, the group also urged them to use the policy brief as basis for a "robust debate" on the matter when Parliament convenes on Monday.

Apart from calling for the withdrawal of the licensing regime, or "at the very minimum" a suspension of its operation as well as the debate, the group is urging MPs to consider:

- Commissioning an open and transparent public consultation process with all stakeholders and
- Addressing the "onerous ownership and management controls over computer online services".

Last month and since late May, when the regulations were first introduced and gazetted, the group of bloggers came together in protest, both online and at Hong Lim Park's Speakers' corner, against them.

The new set of regulations, instituted by the Media Development Authority (MDA), require a starting list of 10 news websites to post a $50,000 performance bond, and cooperate promptly with a 24-hour take-down order of content that is deemed objectionable or in breach of the MDA's standards.

Failure to respond to a take-down order could result in a hefty fine or even imprisonment, a measure that has since been widely viewed as the government's move to censor websites such as the one run by Yahoo! Singapore, which is the only one in the list of 10 that is not owned either by Singapore Press Holdings or MediaCorp, the country's two media giants.

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