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The editors of a Singapore blog known for its critical stance on the city-state’s policies said Monday they complied with a government decision to list it as a political group, a possible attempt to curb the website ahead of general elections.
The Prime Minister’s Office had decided to classify The Online Citizen (TOC) as a political association, banning it from receiving donations from abroad and forcing it to declare its president, treasurer and secretary.
‘We’ve decided to comply so we can carry on with what we do best – telling stories that really matter, covering issues you care about, building a stronger community,’ TOC said in a letter to its readers.
TOC said it stood by its objections that it was not a political group, but a blog ‘run by a revolving door of volunteers’ and, as such, was unable to name a president, treasurer or secretary.
However, ‘further exchanges will not be fruitful’ as the authorities were not backing down, it added.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s office earlier said TOC’s new status was to protect Singapore policies from being manipulated by foreign interests, but ‘will not hinder its existing activities, nor impede its freedom of expression.’
‘We are happy to take this statement at face value and will have to rely on you, our readers, to hold the prime minister to his word,’ TOC said.
In tightly controlled Singapore, critical websites have become very popular with Singaporeans looking for views different from those carried by the generally pro-government mainstream media.
Critics claimed the government with its move to reclassify TOC tried to clamp down on political debate ahead of general elections which need to be held before spring next year.
Singapore’s Media Development Authority also told TOC to register under its regulations which prohibit any programme that ‘is against the public interest, public order or national harmony.’
On Monday, TOC did not say if it also planned to comply with MDA’s rules.