Members of Parliament (MPs) from Singapore’s opposition parties plan to raise the issue of the government’s new licensing rules for online news sites when the House sits on Monday.
Speaking on behalf of the Workers' Party, non-constituency MP (NCMP) Gerald Giam told Yahoo! Singapore that he and Aljunied MPs Pritam Singh and Chen Show Mao have collectively filed five questions for oral answer on the Media Development Authority’s new licensing scheme, which many Singapore bloggers fear could curtail press freedom.
He also commended the release of a policy briefing paper by the #FreeMyInternet group of bloggers earlier Tuesday. “It will help the MPs to better understand the concerns of the online community,” he noted.
Under the MDA scheme, online news sites will need to obtain individual licences if they report at least once a week on Singapore’s news and current affairs over a period of two months, and are visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from the city-state each month.
The sites must also each put up a performance bond of $50,000 and comply within 24 hours with any order from the regulator to take down objectionable content.
MDA identified 10 sites that would fall under the scheme, including Yahoo! Singapore’s and those under state-owned MediaCorp and Singapore Press Holdings, which has close links to the government. The regulator has not ruled out adding more sites to the list.
In the list of five questions filed by the WP MPs and enumerated by Giam in an email to Yahoo! Singapore, the WP MPs will ask, among others, about past occasions MDA has asked websites to remove content, the thinking behind the decision to adopt the scheme, consultations with relevant stakeholders and the extent existing rules have proven inadequate in regulating online news sites.
The WP has not been the only opposition party that has said it planned to bring up the issue in Parliament. As early as at the end of May, NCMP Lina Chiam, representing the Singapore People's Party, said in a Facebook post that she filed an adjournment motion for parliamentary debate on the matter.
Back then, the party wrote that it viewed the new regulations "with grave concern", particularly the fact that it was gazetted without being brought for debate in Parliament beforehand.
Chiam has not yet responded to requests for comment on the issue since then.
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Singaporeans on social media reacted angrily to news that tissue sellers at hawker centres and street corners are being required to pay for an annual licence. …