The Online Citizen resumes operations through public donations

The Online Citizen has resumed operations while being investigated for criminal defamation. (Photo: Yahoo News Singapore)
The Online Citizen has resumed operations while being investigated for criminal defamation. (Photo: Yahoo News Singapore)

Socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) resumed operations on Monday (26 November), after it received donations from the public to purchase new computer hardware needed to run the site.

The long-running independent online media platform, which was founded in 2006, stopped operations on 20 November after police seized electronic equipment such as desktop computers and mobile devices from the home of TOC chief editor Terry Xu.

The police later said it was investigating an alleged criminal defamation by the website, reported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), in which the article “The take away from Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook post” made “serious allegations that the Government’s highest officers are corrupt and that the Constitution has been tampered with”.

The article was written by a member of the public who goes by the pen name of Willy Sun, in response to comments made by Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng on Facebook about a meeting between several Singaporean activists and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in August. The article misspelled Seah’s name.

Repaying the kindness of supporters

On Monday, however, Xu posted a note on the website saying that TOC will continue its publication, even as the police continues its investigations.

He added, “Other than purchase of new hardware, a number of kind hearted individuals have signed up as supporters on Patreon or subscribers to the site. In light of such support, we cannot but to continue our work to repay their kindness.

“We would like to express our thanks to all who have contributed so far, whether it is in monetary or in contribution of article and information.”

Fund-raising campaign soon

Xu also revealed that TOC will be launching a fund-raising campaign soon to expand its team in preparation for the upcoming general elections.

He wrote in his note, “As there is the risk of me being arrested and put to jail, there is an urgent need to ensure that the publication is able to run even with me behind bars especially during the election period.

“With your support, my team and I pledge to continue our work till the day we have exhausted all available resources or forced to have our operations ceased.”

In 2011, the Singapore Registry of Political Donations gazetted TOC as a political organisation, noting that the editors of the website organised online and offline campaigns to change legislation and government policies.

Under the Political Donations Act, political entities cannot receive funds from foreign contributors and anonymous contributions above S$5,000.

In February 2018, TOC was de-gazetted as a “political association”, as it is currently run by only Xu, with volunteer editors and writers.

Related stories:

Police seize equipment from The Online Citizen in defamation investigation

The Online Citizen removed as political association, must register with IMDA

The Online Citizen registers with IMDA to continue operations in Singapore