Stop crackdown on alternative online news sites and return TOC equipment

Singapore Democrats

The police action against The Online Citizen (TOC) and the seizure of Mr Terry Xu’s equipment is yet another demonstration of a government that is totally out-of-sync with a maturing population.

If the authorities deem the report on the TOC website to be untrue, then it should provide its account of the matter. The tactic of ordering the police to visit the publisher’s home to raid and confiscate equipment is unbecoming of a country that aspires to be First World.

The more important point that must not be missed is the selective application of laws against the PAP’s opponents and critics.

A prime example is the Lianhe Wanbao which had published quotes from Dr Chee Soon Juan which he did not make during the by-election in 2016.

In this instance, why did the police not do to the newspaper what it did to TOC? Such a partisan and hypocritical move reflects the true backward nature of the situation in Singapore.

The present action against the TOC comes despite the website removing the alleged offending article when told to do so by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on 18 September 2018. The police action is clearly a move to harass and intimidate the Internet community.

At the same time, the NTUC Foodfare has taken legal action against The Independent SG (TISG) for an article about an elderly food-stall operator working at a Changi Airport foodcourt that it claims to be untrue.

Again, why can’t the NTUC Foodfare present factual accounts of the matter and leave it to the public to form its own conclusion? Such unnecessary legal action shuts down healthy and robust debate in the public square, debate that is necessary for Singapore to adapt and thrive in a changed world.

The truth is that Singaporeans want to see more factual information being presented and debated, not government orders to take down posts it deems untrue.

The crackdown on alternative news sites will backfire as it will galvanise netizens to stand up to such anti-democratic practices. The PAP is obviously feeling the heat as the next general elections looms and resentment of its policies among Singaporeans spreads. The clampdown on the social media serves only to infuriate an already angry public.

Such actions will further hold Singapore back in our effort to break free of a suffocating authoritarian government and join mature and sophisticated nations in the developed world.

The SDP calls on the authorities to return to Mr Xu his computer equipment that were seized and for the NTUC Foodfare to stop its action against the TISG so that these alternative news sites can continue their important work to provide the Singaporean public news and analysis that the state media avoid.

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