#FreeMyInternet – Join Us in our Photo Campaign
July 6, 2013, 3:48 am
Filed under: #FreeMyInternet, Media Development Authority, Singapore

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Join the campaign with other Singaporeans to let the MDA know that we want to protect our freedom to use the Internet.

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Here’s what you can do:

(1) Write what you want to say anywhere – a piece of paper, cardboard, your hand or shirt.

(2) Write ‎#FreeMyInternet somewhere.

(3) Take a photo of yourself, with the words.

(4) Upload your photo on the #FreeMyInternet Facebook page and tag your friends on it! https://www.facebook.com/FreeMyInternet

(5) Change this to your Facebook profile picture!

The #FreeMyInternet is a movement by everyone. The more photos we have, the stronger the voice we have.



#FreeMyInternet – Media statement issued at the end of the protest

5385_618093534882266_605125707_n#FreeMyInternet is encouraged by the success of our first campaign against the new MDA Licensing Regime, which many media commentators see as the turning point in Singapore’s media regulatory landscape in Singapore.

More than 4,000 signed our online petition (and still counting), more than 150 blogs participated in our online blackout, and an estimated total of 2500 participated this afternoon in Singapore’s largest blogger-led protest.

But don’t take just our word for it. When Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin went on national television to explain the Licensing Regime, all we saw was a steady climb of those who think the new regulation would limit online news content, from 50% to a landslide 73.9%.

These are all clear signs that Singaporeans from all walks of life, be they writers or readers of online content, do not believe the explanations offered by the government, are against the MDA Licensing Regime, and are demanding for it to be withdrawn.

The success of the campaign is no mean feat. #FreeMyInternet came together at a few days’ notice, and the three-prong campaign was organised within a week and a half. Given the spontaneous and leaderless nature of the #FreeMyInternet movement, this is a remarkable achievement.

Moving ahead, the #FreeMyInternet movement will continue to call for the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime.

In addition, there is much more public awareness that needs to be done. Because of the manner in which the Licensing Regime was slipped into legislation, there has been very little opportunity to educate the public on why the Licensing Regime is so dangerous.

In the weeks to come, we will roll out material and programmes to educate members of the public and Members of Parliament about why the Licensing Regime needs to be withdrawn.

We do not rule out a dialogue with the government, but this dialogue needs to be a discussion on how the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime will take place, and should be a dialogue about how de-regulating the media environment can best be done to benefit Singaporeans.

The trust that was broken by the hasty introduction of the Licensing Regime can only be restored by the withdrawal of the Licensing Regime. A government that doesn’t trust its people is a government that will lose the trust of its people. We hope our government will keep their faith with all Singaporeans.



#FreeMyInternet – My “speech”
Due to my convocation, I was only able to reach Hong Lim Park close to 6pm, just in time to hear Andrew Loh read out the following on my behalf:
 
As an individual who believes that the freedom of opinions and expression as well as free access to information are part of our basic fundamental rights, I would like to voice out against the new licensing regime imposed by MDA. 
 
It is not about the fear of being censored, as the mainstream media has been trying to imply in their reports regarding this issue. It is about having an authority controlling over a space that belongs to all of us. It is about the power that an authority has given itself to request that newsites remove articles that are of “bad taste” within 24 hours upon notice. 

Personally, I do not believe that any authority should be given that power to define and decide for us, information or opinions that are safe or harmful.  In fact, should anyone have any problems with the article(s) they have come across, they should speak up against it or share their own perspectives. This is how free speech works. Only through the process of being exposed to different perspectives, a society progresses intellectually. Since we do not get that from our mainstream media, or through our education system, we should do our brains a huge favour by letting the opinions remain as diverse as they can online. With that, I maintain the stand that the whole licensing regime should be dropped.

 
Thank you for sharing my thoughts at the event, Andrew!


Free My Internet!

Blogs in Singapore held an online protest against Media Development Authority’s new licensing framework and here is a video montage of the screen caps.

Join #FreeMyInternet at Hong Lim Park on 8 June from 4-7pm for an offline protest against the new licensing framework.



Singapore: Licensing Regime Chills News Climate

Human-Right-Watch-LogoCity-state Undercuts Status as Financial Center by Expanding Media Censorship to Web

(New York, June 7, 2013) – The Singaporean government should withdraw an onerous new licensing requirement for online news sites, Human Rights Watch said today. The new rules will further discourage independent commentary and reporting on the Internet in Singapore.

On May 28, 2013, the Media Development Authority, which is controlled by the Ministry of Communications and Information and is responsible for regulation of Singapore’s media and publishing industry, announced that all “online news sites” that reach 50,000 unique viewers per month over a two-month period must secure a license to operate. The licensing regime took effect on June 1, and the Media Development Authority released a list of 10 websites that will initially be impacted, including AsiaOne.com, Business Times Singapore, and Yahoo! News Singapore.

“Singapore’s new licensing requirement casts a chill over the city-state’s robust and free-wheeling online communities, and will clearly limit Singaporeans’ access to independent media,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Websites will be forced into the role of private censors on behalf of the government.”

The new licensing rules seem intended to impose another check on popular websites more than to reduce any genuine harms, Human Rights Watch said. As a condition of the license, websites must comply within 24 hours with any requests from the Media Development Authority to remove content that the government deems objectionable. Websites are also required to post a S$50,000 (US$40,000) performance bond to ensure compliance. “News site” is defined broadly to include any site containing news or any matter or public interest related to Singapore, in any language – even if content is provided by a third party, as with readers’ comments on a website.

On May 30, several major independent websites in Singapore released a joint media statement in protest, contending that the new rules would “reduce the channels available to Singaporeans to receive news and analysis of the socio-political situation in Singapore.” The statement also said that the new rules would disproportionately harm citizen journalists and non-commercial, volunteer-run blogging platforms, who will not be able to afford the performance bond.

A group of bloggers have launched a campaign using the Twitter hashtag #FreeMyInternet, and on June 6, participants blacked out their websites to oppose the new rules. Bloggers have also organized a public event in Singapore’s Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park on June 8. Online commentators have expressed concern over the breadth of the definition of “online news sites,” warning that it could sweep in blogs that discuss a wide range of issues, and websites that enable users to discuss online content.

In response to criticism, the Media Development Authority clarified on its Facebook page on May 31 that, “An individual publishing views on current affairs and trends on his/her personal website or blog does not amount to news reporting.” However, in a separate statement, the Authority undermined this claim by asserting that, “If they [blogs] take on the nature of news sites, we will take a closer look and evaluate them accordingly.”

The Media Development Authority also asserted that the framework is “not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites” and that it will only step in “when complaints are raised to [their] attention, and [they] assess that the content is in breach of the content guidelines and merits action by the website owner.”

Singapore’s constitution guarantees the right to freedom of expression, with exceptions for broadly worded restrictions in the name of security, public order, morality, and racial and religious harmony. Print and broadcast media are also subject to annual licensing requirements. In November 1997, the Media Development Authority introduced an Internet Code of Practice, which requires Internet service providers to restrict access to prohibited material and would apply to websites subject to the new license. The Code of Practice restricts any content that is “against public interest” or offends “good taste or decency,” including “material that advocates homosexuality or lesbianism.”

The definition of what might be deemed “against public interest” is vague and can be used arbitrarily by the government, leaving the licensing regime and content regulations open to selective enforcement and abuse, Human Rights Watch said.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights activists in Singapore have also criticized media censorship laws because they create a skewed portrayal of LGBT individuals in local, mainstream media. Given that Singapore still criminalizes male same-sex relations, instituting a 24-hour takedown requirement for “material that advocates homosexuality or lesbianism” on popular websites will only exacerbate the problem, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch said that the licensing regime is inconsistent with international human rights standards on freedom of expression. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, widely recognized as customary international law, provides that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

In his May 2011 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, wrote that registration and licensing requirements “cannot be justified in the case of the Internet.”

“Singapore is placing its status as a world-class financial center at clear risk by extending its record of draconian media censorship to the digital world,” Wong said.

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Internet freedom, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/topic/free-speech/internet-freedom

For more Human Rights Watch reporting on Singapore, please visit:
http://www.hrw.org/asia/singapore

For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Cynthia Wong (English): +1-917-860-3186 (mobile); or wongc@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @cynthiamw
In New York, Mickey Spiegel (English): +1-212-216-1229; or spiegem@hrw.org
In Bangkok, Phil Robertson (English, Thai): +66-85-060-8406 (mobile); or robertp@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @Reaproy
In Washington, DC, John Sifton (English): +1-917-838-9736 (mobile); or siftonj@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @johnsifton
In San Francisco, Brad Adams (English): +1-510-926-8443 (mobile); or adamsb@hrw.org. Follow on Twitter @BradAdamsHRW



This blog will be blacked out on 6 June

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Here is a quick lunchtime posting:

Come 6 June 2013, 0000Hrs, this blog will blacked out for 24 hours in protest against the new licensing framework implemented by the Media Development Authority.

If you would like to join us in blacking out your blog, do visit www.freemyinternet.com.

Cheers! 🙂



“Trust people to be rational and to make their own judgement” – MP Baey Yam Keng

From #FreeMyInternet’s engagement with MP Baey Yam Keng during his live chat on Facebook. Click on the picture for an enlarged view. You can also read the conversation here.
bykscreenshot4Related Links:
#FreeMyInternet calls on Mr Baey and all MPs to push for the withdrawal of the licensing regime

Petition for the immediate withdrawal of the licensing regime

#FreeMyInternet – Movement against the licensing requirements for online media (Event page on Facebook)