S'pore restricts political blogs, podcasts

Rules curtail the extent to which the Internet can be used by political parties to campaign in the country's coming polls.
Written by Jeanne Lim, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Political ramblings on the Internet during the country's upcoming general election could land someone in hot soup--especially if they have not registered to do so, says the Singapore government.

Clarifying its stand on online electioneering yesterday, the government reiterated that citizens who post political commentary on the Web during the election can face prosecution. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whose ruling People's Action Party has dominated politics in Singapore since its independence in 1965, is expected to call elections in the coming months.

The broadcasting of political issues by political parties or individuals, using new Internet technologies such as podcasting and videocasting, will be governed under Singapore's election advertising regulations established in 2001 during the last polls.

During the November 2001 election, the extent of online politics was limited to political parties posting information about their rallies and candidates' bio-data on their Web sites.

The rules extend to bloggers who are permitted to discuss politics but will have to register their Web sites if they repeatedly maintain political views, said Dr Balaji Sadasivan, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts, during a parliament sitting.

He also said that any Singaporean who uses the Internet to "persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues" about the island-state during the election period would be running afoul of the law.

Under the current regulatory regime, political Web sites have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA), which also administers the Parliamentary Elections Act, the Class Licence Scheme and Internet Code of Practice.

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