Recently, the Media Development Authority's (MDA) issued a licensing scheme for online news sites in Singapore. Angered by the new ruling, a five-hour demonstration took place on Saturday afternoon at the Speaker's Corner.
Organized by a group of popular social-political bloggers, over 1,500 protestors turned up at the “Free My Internet” rally. I wasn’t one of them. I wasn’t there because…well, I have no idea what this new licensing scheme is for.
And I’m not the only one. Now if the MDA is saying that there need to be rules for internet websites like those for mainstream media; fine. I don't like it but I can understand it. However this new licensing scheme is not the solution.
Take for example the regulation that state that websites with at least 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish at least one local news article per week over a period of two months are required to obtain an individual license, renewable annually.
How in the world would bloggers like me know if we have 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month? More to the point, how would the MDA knows? This ruling is not for news websites or bloggers in Singapore, but for all and everyone that publish news about Singapore! They can’t track every news website in the world, much less every blogger in the world.
This ruling is just both insane and unworkable unless they cherry-pick which websites they want to go after. If the MDA do cherry-pick, then questions will need to be asked about the criteria of how they do that and which websites will be under scrutiny. The questions would be endless!
So main thing about the new licensing scheme is that I just don’t think it’s very well thought out. The fact that it was passed without any public consultation isn’t a problem for me, this is Singapore after all, but the vagueness of the new scheme is one that gets me. The rulings are so broad even government ministers are having a hard time explaining it.
In short, the MDA and the Singapore government need to either get rid of the new licensing scheme or explained it better. Leaving it as it is now serves no one.