Singapore on Tuesday reaffirmed its decision to reclassify a critical internet blog as a political group, a move seen as an attempt to curb the website ahead of general elections in the tightly-controlled city-state.
The editors of The Online Citizen (TOC) last week urged Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to reverse his position, arguing it ‘was borne of political paranoia.’
But in an e-mail letter sent to TOC’s editors Tuesday and published on the Asiaone news website, the Prime Minister’s Office reaffirmed the move, noting that ‘TOC is not a passive website that simply hosts social or political commentary.’
‘TOC has organized online and offline campaigns to change legislation and government policies,’ it said.
The blog, therefore, could be defined as a political association and should be dealt with under the Political Donations Act, ‘whether or not it considers itself non-partisan.’
The act bans political groups from accepting donations from foreign sources, said the letter, adding that TOC’s new status ‘will not hinder its existing activities, nor impede its freedom of expression.’
The website editors on Friday appealed the government’s decision, but said they would comply ‘if registering is what it’ll take to continue our contribution to Singapore.’
TOC last week was also told by the Media Development Authority to register as a political website, meaning that its editors had, for example, to make sure that the blog did not contain anything that ‘is against the public interest, public order or national harmony.’
A comment on Temasek Review, another local blog, said if TOC allowed itself to be gazetted and registered, ‘the website is as good as dead.’
Blogs like TOC and Temasek Review have become popular with Singaporeans looking for views different from those run by the generally government-friendly mainstream media.