Singapore government order leads to shutdown of political website

The Real Singapore went offline following the suspension of its license by content regulator, Media Development Authority, which deemed the political site's content "objectionable".

A political website was shut down after the Singapore government suspended its owners' operating license and ordered the site to be taken offline.

The Real Singapore (TRS) website as well as Facebook profile were no longer accessible on Sunday, following an 8pm deadline issued by Media Development Authority (MDA) for the site and all its online channels to be taken down.

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The content regulator said the website had posted content that were "objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order, and national harmony," reported local newspaper The Straits Times.

MDA added that the site had "deliberately fabricated articles and falsely attributed them to innocent parties" in a bid to boost its traffic and, hence, its advertising revenue.

According to the government agency, at least two of TRS' editors were foreigners--from Australia and Malaysia--and the site had aimed to "incited anti-foreigner sentiments" in Singapore.

Local regulations prohibit registered news websites from receiving foreign funding for its management and operations. The Singapore government believes foreign entities should not engage in Singapore politics and has been firm about not permitting foreign interests to "control" local media platforms. In this aspect, the country's Newspaper and Printing Presses Act and Broadcasting Act empower the government to restrict and control the ownership of newspapers and broadcast media, including websites.

The TRS license suspension comes a month after two of the site's editors, Singaporean Yang Kaiheng and his Australian girlfriend Ai Takagi were charged under the country's sedition act, for posting articles that allegedly fanned hostility between ethnic groups in Singapore.

If the website and its online channels were not taken down by MDA's deadline, the editors would have faced fines of up to S$200,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years.

The editors have until May 11 to provide information about the site's operations including its finances and why the site should be allowed to retain its license and resume operations. They face fines of up to S$5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to a year should they fail to provide the required information

The editors can file an appeal against the suspension by writing to Singapore's Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim.