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Censorship Government The Media

Singapore Seeks Even More Control Over Online Media 78

Posted by timothy
from the eric-holder's-new-consulting-gig dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Currently ranked 149th globally in terms of press freedom, alongside Iraq and Myanmar, the Singapore government has chosen to further tighten its grip on the media instead of letting up. The Media Development Authority (MDA) announced yesterday that 'online news sites' reporting regularly on issues relating to Singapore and have significant reach among readers here will require an individual license from the MDA. Under the regime, website operators have to comply within 24 hours with any directives from the MDA to take down content that breaches standards. These sites also have to put up a 'performance bond' of S$50,000. The Government also plans to amend the Broadcasting Act next year, to ensure that websites which are hosted overseas but report on Singapore news are brought under the licensing framework as well."
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Singapore Seeks Even More Control Over Online Media

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  • Overseas laws (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sigvatr (1207234) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @05:25PM (#43866067)
    Usually when a country expects other countries to obey their laws, things don't work out quite so well.
    • Re:Overseas laws (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Thursday May 30, 2013 @05:30PM (#43866129)

      Extraterritorial laws can sometimes be enforced, but I'm not sure Singapore is really in a position to do so. The U.S. is probably the most effective at enforcing its laws extraterritorially (much to the dismay of many non-Americans), and the UK does so somewhat with its notorious libel laws, but Singapore ain't no US or UK.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's simple really. If a website gets sufficient traction in Singapore to appear on government radar, they are probably in a position where they will want to incorporate in Singapore in order to more efficiently monetize their users there. I think it's pretty clear what most companies will choose to do.

        • Why would they want to base their operations where their users are? That means they'll need to pay local taxes.

          • It doesn't matter where they are, many survive on advertising. Upset the government and it either grabs your advertising income directly or tells your advertisers that if they continue to advertise with you that they will be ''leant on''; either way: kills your advertising income.

      • by chrismcb (983081)
        In this case it is relatively easy. IF You want reporters in their country reporting on news, you pay them this bond. If later you don't do what they ask, you sacrifice your bond.
    • Re:Overseas laws (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Thursday May 30, 2013 @05:40PM (#43866257)

      Usually when a country expects other countries to obey their laws, things don't work out quite so well.

      Except well, Singapore has a great firewall as well, and all media is censored prior to sale. If you note, it's any site with a large number of Singaporean readers. Which means if you don't comply, they will simply cut you off at the gateway. If you have any media assets locally, they can be seized. Or if you publish anything, expect Customs ot sieze them as well.

      If you're a big publisher, this is quite problematic, especially if you have related media assets like DVDs and such.

      And nevermind that Singapore is a huge port into Asia and often a stopover or destination.

      • Singapore has a great firewall as well, and all media is censored prior to sale.

        Perhaps, then, they should consider renaming their country the Nation of Wal-Mart?

      • Re:Overseas laws (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @05:59PM (#43866481)

        And nevermind that Singapore is a huge port into Asia and often a stopover or destination.

        Surely you mean Hong Kong? Or Manila? The Lion City treads a very fine line at the best of times lah, if they insist on acting like a tinpot dictatorship they will most assuredly be treated as such.

        The world needs Singapore a lot less than Singapore needs the world.

        • Singapore post delivers a lot of stuff from Hong Kong to the rest of the world.

        • Re:Overseas laws (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Decker-Mage (782424) <jack_of_shadows@yahoo.com> on Thursday May 30, 2013 @07:52PM (#43867543)
          Actually, the world needs Singapore vastly more than Singapore needs the world. I've been there a half-dozen times so far and it is a bit oppressive if misbehaving is part of your makeup. Amazingly polite, amazingly modern, and amazingly clean. I'm a libertarian and opposed by principle to such laws but the people of Singapore get to decide that question. You can't stop a few million people in such a small area from successfully revolting. They sure as Hell don't have to let anyone or anything in, or most importantly through, if that's they have a problem with it, whatever it is. We nearly had one of our people executed (caught smuggling heroin in the frame of his bicycle). Fortunately for him, we were able to pay a fine and hand him over to US justice. He thought he was smarter than they were. Wrong guess, minus five. I hope his time in federal prison was far more enjoyable that a bullet to the head. And I can understand the Singapore side on this.

          In terms of political-economic power, Singapore absolutely controls the major trading route from the Indian Ocean to the Asian-Pacific rim. Yes, you can go around it but you'll be in even more pirate infested waters, dealing with the odd reef and oceanic sandbars, etc. You'll also forgo refueling in Singapore if needed. And protection. We don't break out the .50 cal. machine guns for entertainment (although it's a trip to actually practice with one) as soon as we hit the Celebes Sea. So, when push comes to shove, even the US Navy is going to think twice about playing in the littoral waters should Singapore express dissatisfaction with some kind of embargo. Frankly, targeting anything there, even with brilliant weapons, is going to be Hell.

          So, what are you going to do to Singapore? Squawk, that's about your only option. And I don't think you get much support (actually lot's of opposition) from the major trading partners dependent (Japan, China) on the flow of trade there. Historically, the US likes freedom of the seas (Mission #1 of the US Navy) far more than other nice-to-haves. I can't see that changing. Sorry.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Amazingly polite, amazingly modern, and amazingly clean.

            Polite is not a word I would associate with Singaporeans. Politeness in Asia is really confined to Japan, Korea and Thailand.

            • I was in Singapore a few months ago and I found everyone I spoke with to be extremely helpful, friendly, and polite.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I hope his time in federal prison was far more enjoyable that a bullet to the head.

            I hope it was more enjoyable than the hanging he would have received in Singapore, since that's the sole method of execution there.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            damn. watch where you pointing that flashlight of TRUTH.

            we all gonna go blind.

          • Re:Overseas laws (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Xest (935314) on Friday May 31, 2013 @05:12AM (#43870289)

            "I've been there a half-dozen times so far and it is a bit oppressive if misbehaving is part of your makeup."

            Because watching poor, demanding greater freedoms from your government and chewing gum are of course part of the makeup of a misbehavour. This is the no true Scotsman fallacy, you're saying that if someone falls foul of Singapore's laws then it's obviously because they were misbehaving because no true nice person could ever fall foul of the law!

            "I'm a libertarian and opposed by principle to such laws but" ...but you're actually not because you like the effects of a police state where everyone is too scared to dare speak out against the government, where numerous abuses occur and where such simple things as a porn DVD or chewing gum in your backpack can be grounds for you to be beaten, tortured, and jailed for a year?

            Other than that what you say about Singapore offering safe passage is nonsense, it offers safe passage relatively free from piracy precisely because it is the route used right now for shipping through that region. You're assuming it's Singapore that makes it a good shipping route when in reality it's the chosen shipping route that makes Singapore - if it were to move Singapore would become irrelevant. As for refuelling I have to wonder if you've ever actually looked at a map, you do realise how small Singapore is right? refuelling before or after passing Singapore is a rather trivial exercise, again, the only reason it's chosen as a refuelling stop right now is because the world uses that shipping route.

            The fact is that Singapore is entirely dependent on the world continuing to pass it's shores and pass through it's airport, it's the only reason it has some degree of wealth.

            Right now Singapore is fine because it doesn't actually cause much trouble for the rest of the world, and because it's a Western ally but the reality is if any of that were to change it's simply way too small a nation to have a real impact. Closure of the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal would have a vastly larger impact due to the size of detour this would require but previous studies have shown it wouldn't be an insurmountable problem, it would be a pain but not the end of the world. Compare the size of Singapore's ocean territory, the locality of alternative paths, the locality of alternative ports, but perhaps most importantly, the number of close proximity nations that would gladly take Singapore's stopover trade for themselves.

            It's not as if countries like China can't ramp up production to replace Singapore's historically significant manufacturing base overnight nowadays either. If anything Singapore needs the world to keep supporting it more than ever, because the things it used to do well are more and more trivially replaceable by other nations.

        • Ah, another person who has no idea what the Straits of Malacca are, why they are important, or why Singapore was built where it was.
    • by iggymanz (596061)

      works great when you can use the two magic words: nuclear fucking weapons

      • by paiute (550198)

        works great when you can use the two magic words: nuclear fucking weapons

        I thought the two magic words were precious bodily fluids.

    • Re:Overseas laws (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nbauman (624611) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @06:34PM (#43866881) Homepage Journal

      The Wall Street Journal had a run-in with Singapore which was very amusing to those who think that the WSJ editorial page was written by pompous right-wing assholes.

      The WSJ editorial page had long praised Singapore as a model free-market state, which showed that you didn't need socialism to get a developed economy.

      Then they printed an op-ed essay in one of their editions by an opposition politician. Lee's government used to deal with its legislative opponents by suing them for libel. The Singapore courts always ruled that they had committed libel, and awarded Lee huge damages which drove the opposition politician into bankruptcy. Under Singapore law, you can't serve in the legislature if you're bankrupt. So they had to leave the legislature. Cute, huh?

      So Lee sued the WSJ, which had an Asian edition with a large circulation in Singapore, for libel. Lee won. The WSJ had to pay damages, and even worse, they weren't allowed to sell their newspaper in Singapore until they published a groveling apology.

      What a dilemma! Stick to your principles of free speech, and lose millions of dollars of sales in one of the fastest-growing asian markets? Or cave in, abandon your principles, and throw the political dissidents to the wolves?

      The WSJ printed an editorial trying to educate Lee and the Singaporian people (and businessmen) of the virtues of American-style free speech. The Singaporian people didn't pay much attention. After all, this was a matter of money (and power).

      So finally the WSJ caved in, paid up, and printed a groveling, Soviet-style recantation.

      I was in Singapore about a year later. You can find the New York Times everywhere. I asked for a copy of the WSJ. Everybody was "sold out". I finally found a copy in a bookstore on the fifth floor of a monster shopping mall at the end of an out-of-the way corner.

      The Singaporean people were very nice. All the teenagers walk around with science textbooks. The restaurants have signs that say, "No studying." They're neat and well-dressed like Moonies, only smarter.

      Lee was interviewed on Terry Gross and he defended his human rights violations. He said when he came in, they were living in poverty. They didn't have toilets. Now it's a modern developed state with an economy like Western Europe. I guess people are entitled to choose a dictator. I guess the Cuban people are entitled to say the same thing about Fidel Castro.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Agree the Lee's are a bunch of assholes.

        Here in America, we have 100% freedom to say whatever we want. But just don't say anything bad about the government [slashdot.org].

      • by Taco Cowboy (5327)

        Lee was interviewed on Terry Gross and he defended his human rights violations

        I am not here to defend Lee, nor Singapore

        All I want to point up is, when you are looking at the map of Singapore, try look at which country is at the North of the island of Singapore

        There, you will find a place where Apartheid is still officially sanctioned

        If you ever thought that Apartheid is dead when South Africa's racist government collapsed and when Mandela was released from jail, all you need to remember is to point your finger at the map of Singapore, and then, move your finger a bit, to the North

        • Yes, it's fun and easy to slap one-word push-peoples-buttons labels on things that are actually quite complicated.

        • by isorox (205688)

          Lee was interviewed on Terry Gross and he defended his human rights violations

          I am not here to defend Lee, nor Singapore

          All I want to point up is, when you are looking at the map of Singapore, try look at which country is at the North of the island of Singapore

          There, you will find a place where Apartheid is still officially sanctioned

          If you ever thought that Apartheid is dead when South Africa's racist government collapsed and when Mandela was released from jail, all you need to remember is to point your finger at the map of Singapore, and then, move your finger a bit, to the North

          Israel is far west of Singapore, not north

    • Except when you're Singapore and will just simply block the websites they don't want.

      Singapore is still a very important trade area even though it seems to suffer from the curse of ridiculous laws that seem to be prevalent in Asia (seriously, why can't there be a country with the freedom of business of Singapore/Hong Kong but with unrestricted personal freedoms?).

      If Singapore doesn't like your site, they will either try to extort money from you (like what they did to the Wall Street Journal) or simp
    • by kheldan (1460303)

      to ensure that websites which are hosted overseas but report on Singapore news are brought under the licensing framework as well

      So politicians in Singapore are just as fucktardedly stupid when it comes to technology as politicians anywhere else in the world? Good luck making that work, Singapore.

  • I think you'll find other countries are disinclined to care about/enforce/assist in enforcing/acknowledge/pretend they're not laughing at/etc. this kind of law.

  • The Government also plans to amend the Broadcasting Act next year, to ensure that websites which are hosted overseas but report on Singapore news are brought under the licensing framework as well.

    Heh. Good luck with that.

    Even if the Singaporean pipeline to the rest of the Internet were filtered like China's, there's no practical way to censor every possible news outlet that might choose to report on Singapore unless they take a whitelist approach and censor everything but the bit they're willing to l

    • I'd be interested to see how far their interpretation goes as well. Can you imagine the Singapore government trying to prevent the Seattle Times or a newspaper in Tolouse reporting that Singapore Airlines ordered more planes? Or trying to punish the BBC, Pravda, CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Al Jazeera, and every other news source if one of their planes went down?

      I'd use a non-aviation example, but I can't rightly think of anything else in Singapore which would be reported on internationally. Except a stupid American

    • by countach (534280)

      I don't think they're under any illusion that they can cut off the news flow. I think they just want to tame the biggest outlets to their will, and they figure the 95% control of the masses that this gives them is enough. Not being too familiar with Singapore politics, I'm not sure exactly what they are aiming at.

  • And exactly how do they intend to enforce this against sites hosted overseas, provided the owner of the site doesn't live in Singapore either? Do they plan to build really, really long canes?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Simple. There is already a filter in place. Play by the rules, or get filtered out.

    • >And exactly how do they intend to enforce this against sites hosted overseas, provided the owner of the site doesn't live in Singapore either? Do they plan to build really, really long canes?

      Probably they will use their guns. In the battle of Singapore (February 1942) they had all their guns pointed towards the sea. Hours long they sat there with binoculars waiting for the Japanese Imperial Navy to arrive. The Japanese soldiers did... Over land... From the back... Completely circumventing the whole defe
    • by chrismcb (983081)
      If you are reporting on Singaporean news, you have a reporter locally. If you don't have a reporter locally, then you are regurgitating what someone else is reporting, they just need to go after whoever does.
  • by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday May 30, 2013 @05:59PM (#43866475)
    This is Slash My Dots reporting from the republic of Internetland. In Singapore news, it turns out the royal family are assholes.
    News Update: this story may be attempted to be controlled by Singapore but the Internetlandians do not recognize their authority over Internetland, seeing as how they only own and rule Singapore.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I once met a Singapore woman ins hostel in Stockholm/Sweden. By chance we had a conversation about freedom. I asked her, the insensitive clod I am, about freedom of speech in Singapore and, confirmed by her remarks stated that Singapore has NO freedom (media, speech, etc). Even 10000 km away from her home it was as if a minder would watch over her what she says, fearing she would be punished. Beyond strange.
    No better than North Korea. Not at all.

    Singapore is a shiny dystopian asshole dictatorship void of fr

  • The Government also plans to amend the Broadcasting Act next year, to ensure that websites which are hosted overseas but report on Singapore news are brought under the licensing framework as well.

    How exactly are they going to enforce their Broadcasting Act for foreign media? Start sending their minuscule army around the globe?

    • Duh! They've hired the MPAA/RIAA to do their off-shore enforcement for them.

      Just ask Kim Dotcom how that works.

  • Why You So Like That? ;)
  • by Sperif (1005787)
    Singaporean censorship is extreme. No unions, no protests, no news against the government and worse, one cannot access p0rn websites from S'pore. When one knows that Singapore's prime minister's wife is also CEO of the biggest hedge fund of Singapore...
  • I know of at least one corporate R & D department where use of results from Singapore University is explicitly prohibited. The place stinks.

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