Singapore tightens rules on news websites

Agence France-Presse
Websites with more than 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish one local news article a week must obtain an annual license

NEW RULES. A view of the city state

SINGAPORE – Singapore‘s official media watchdog Tuesday, May 28, announced licensing rules for news websites, including the local Yahoo! portal, that will subject them to the same regulations as traditional media.

From June 1, websites which have more than 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish at least one local news article a week must obtain an annual licence from the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Websites granted a licence will have to remove “prohibited content” such as articles that undermine “racial or religious harmony” within 24 hours of being notified by the authority, the MDA said in a statement.

“This will place them on a more consistent regulatory framework with traditional news platforms which are already individually licensed,” it said.

Yahoo! has gained popularity as an alternative news and opinion source in Singapore, where the mainstream media is widely perceived as pro-government.

It has also become a magnet for strident anti-government and anti-foreigner comments posted by readers in reaction to some news stories.

‘Performance bond’

The MDA said it expected “no change in content standards” since websites must already comply with content restrictions under current regulations.

Licensed websites will have to put up a sum of Sg$50,000 ($39,500) as a “performance bond” similar to what is required of smaller broadcasters.

Industry sources told AFP the bond can be forfeited if a media company refuses to comply with regulations and MDA directives.

Yahoo! is among the 10 websites named by the MDA as subject to licensing under the new regulations.

The other nine belong to local media companies Singapore Press Holdings and Mediacorp.

“We are not in a position to respond until we receive the actual licence conditions for review,” Alan Soon, the “country ambassador” for Yahoo! Singapore, told AFP when asked for comment. – Rappler.com

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