Singapore ordered The Real Singapore shut after suspending the license of a website’s operators for the first time for publishing prohibited material including inciting anti-foreigner sentiments.
The socio-political website contravened the Internet Code of Practice by publishing articles that were “objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony,” the Media Authority of Singapore said in a statement Sunday. The site known as TRS also deliberately fabricated articles and made some more inflammatory in an attempt to boost traffic and advertising revenue, the agency said.
The suspension is the first since Internet service and content providers including TRS are licensed under rules introduced in 1996.
In 2013, Singapore also implemented additional licensing regulations for websites that regularly publish news on the city. The sites have to pay a S$50,000 ($37,500) bond which will be forfeited on the publication of “prohibited content” that undermines racial or religious harmony. The rules prompted protests from websites and opposition groups then.
Two TRS editors, who were charged last month with sedition, have been given seven days to provide information on the site and why their license shouldn’t be canceled, according to the agency. Their lawyer Choo Zheng Xi said they haven’t pleaded on the charges and declined to comment further. The maximum penalty for sedition is a three-year jail term and a S$5,000 fine.
One of the two editors, who’s a Singapore citizen, has applied to travel to Australia, where his father is seriously ill after suffering a stroke, the Straits Times reported. The prosecution objected to the application, citing flight risk as the 26-year-old editor is also a permanent resident of Australia, the newspaper said.
In neighboring Malaysia, media executives from an online portal and a financial newspaper were detained and later released under sedition laws for reports on efforts by one state to introduce Islamic criminal punishments. Sedition laws in Malaysia and Singapore date to their days as British colonies.