As online sites such as the Critical Spectator (CS) fronted by Polish national Michael Patreus continue to wax lyrical on matters pertaining to Singapore without apparent supervision from authorities, homegrown websites such as The Online Citizen (TOC) and The Independent Singapore (TISG) appear to be be consistently policed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Why is that the case?
The Government of Singapore has always voiced suspicion of “outside forces” meddling with the internal affairs of Singapore. Indeed, this was part of the reason behind a whole raft of regulations that were put in place to ensure that websites like TOC and TISG did not receive funding from “foreign” sources.
As a result of these restrictions, TOC and TISG have had to account to IMDA for a whole host of the minutiae ranging from the identity of all of its doners to how its (in TOC’s case) its subscription process works. Given that these are all small publications that rely heavily on volunteers with other jobs, these are gigantuan administrative jobs. However, in order to continue with the mission of giving Singaporeans another perspective of the news, these small publications soldiered on, doing whatever was required of them in order to continue.
Looking at the hoops that small homegrown websites have to jump through, it seems like a slap in the face that foreign websites like CS are able to continue seemingly unregulated! It does raise the question if the CS is permitted free reign because it is establishment friendly? And if so, is that an abuse of power on the part of establishment to use its authority to seemingly try and bully small scale local websites into submission while allowing establishment friendly foreign websites to do what it likes?
There are other foreign websites that report on the Singapore Government such as The South China Morning Post, Reuters and AFP that are not being put through the same rigorous monitoring as TOC and TISG. Could it be because such news websites are too big to be “bullied”? Is it because such international publications do not have to bow to the whims of the IMDA and the IMDA thus does not bother wasting its time?
Instead, the establishment chooses to focus on individual writers within these international publications to single them out for accusations via Singapore’s mainstream media. Is this yet another form of “bullying”? Take on the small individuals while leaving the big boys alone?
Whatever the explanations that have been given to allegedly protect Singaporeans from nefarious “foreign interference”, the fact remains that the only two websites in Singapore that have been policed in this manner and to this degree are the two homegrown ones who are thought to be “not establishment friendly”. Clear foreign publications such as the government friendly CS are not policed and large scale websites such as AFP, Reuters and SCMP are similarly not regulated under the same regulations.
This begs the question: Is this about fear of “foreign” interference or an attempt to silence critics wherever possible?
Is the Government being hypocritical about how it chooses to “police foreign interference”?