Critics Fear Censorship after a Singapore news site was suspended.
A Singaporean news website that is known for being critical of the government had its license revoked by regulators on Tuesday for failing to identify its financing sources, with a rights organization calling the decision “unacceptable censorship.”
The strictly regulated city-state is routinely accused of restricting media freedoms, and The Online Citizen (TOC) has long been a target of the authorities.
It was one of Singapore’s few independent news outlets, and it frequently published stories that were more critical of the authorities than the pro-government mainstream media.
The city-media state’s regulator said the company’s license to operate its websites and social media platforms had been suspended because it had not completely completed its financial declaration obligations.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority said in a statement that sites like TOC “are obligated to be clear about their sources of support.”
“This is to keep such sites from becoming under the control of foreign actors or being influenced by foreign entities or funding.”
TOC was given till Thursday to take down its websites and social media profiles. The regulator warned that if it fails to provide enough additional information, its operating license could be revoked outright.
According to the authority, the site, which was first registered in 2018, has not completely complied with its duties to report its funding since 2019.
It pointed out that TOC had allowed subscribers to request certain articles in exchange for “subscription money,” and warned that this “may be a channel for foreign influence.”
However, Terry Xu, the site’s top editor, told AFP that the site “has never received any foreign support, and will not in the future,” and that the company was weighing its options.
After losing a defamation suit against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong earlier this month, Xu and one TOC writer were sentenced to pay hefty penalties.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, called the license suspension “outrageous and unjustifiable censorship masquerading as official regulatory action.”
“The truth is that the Singaporean government has been attempting to shut down TOC by any means necessary because they dislike their independence and critical reporting.”
In Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, Singapore is ranked 160th out of 180 countries and territories, with number one being the country with the most media freedoms.