The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) has ordered The Real Singapore (TRS) admins to immediately stop posting articles and disable access to its website and social media accounts. The order was issued on 3 May 2015 afternoon and as of 7:30pm, The Real Singapore website, Facebook page and Twitter account have been closed.
It is the first time the MDA has suspended the licence of a site’s editors. Under the Broadcasting Act, the TRS admins could face a fine of up to S$120,000, a jail term of up to 3 years, or both if they do not comply.
Personally, I’m having mixed feeling about this. I hate The Real Singapore website. The site is known to publish fake stuff and always sensationalise issues. I should be feeling happy that a cesspool like TRS is finally gone. But something feels wrong here.
How did The Media Development Authority of Singapore have the power to shut down a website? Where are the checks and safeguards? Why isn’t the court involved? What recourse does site owners have if they disagree with MDA’s decision?
I’m not even aware that TRS has a statutory class licence. We do know that some sites were registered under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification. However, TRS wasn’t one of them. So who has this statutory class licence? And who gave MDA the power to decide who can or cannot operate a website?
I am against MDA regulating the Internet. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending TRS. But I feel that TRS and its admin should be dealt with by the court. The 2 admins are already charged with seven counts of publishing seditious articles. Since the court is dealing with them, why is MDA shutting down the site now?
And most importantly, what is stopping MDA from abusing its power in the future? MDA can also do this to other sites like The Online Citizen in the future. Without proper check and balance, the same power can be used to restrict our freedom of speech.
Ironically, today is World Press Freedom Day.