S'pore: Political online forum closed to protest Net law

An independent political research initiative in Singapore--Think Centre--has closed its Speaker's Corner Online forum to protest a new law on online election advertising.
Written by Susan Tsang, Contributor
SINGAPORE--Independent political research initiative Think Centre has closed its Speaker's Corner Online forum to protest a new law on online election advertising.

On Monday, Parliament passed an amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Act, which permits a limited form of online election campaigning.

Among the restrictions on cyber-campaigning are that private sites are not allowed to come out in support of any party or candidate. However, political parties are allowed to post their manifestoes, posters, candidate profiles, and even hold discussions and forums on their Web sites.

While the government sees the amendment as a step in opening up cyberspace as a political medium, Think Centre criticized the move, which it claimed was passed without consulting either political parties or political groups.

"This is not how an important public policy on information flow is formulated in a country that is reputed to be globalized and a front-runner in information technology," Think Centre said in a statement yesterday.

Think Centre was set up in 1999, and aims to examine issues related to political development, democracy, rule of law, human rights and civil society.

Think Centre communications director Melvin Tan explained that the closure of the online forum was also due to the rule which does not allow non-party sites to campaign for any party or candidate.

"We cannot control what people post on the forum," he told The Straits Times. "We are not sure whether it will be legal, when the polls come, to keep the articles about political parties and politicians on the Web site , which were written before the election," he added.

This will be the second blow to the airing of political views online in Singapore. On Tuesday, Sintercom, a local site that has hosted lively political debates, announced that it would close shop, unless someone was found to take over its running.

The move came a month after the regulatory Singapore Broadcasting Authority had required Sintercom to register as a site that "engages in the propagation, promotion and discussion of political issues relating to Singapore".

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