Singaporean General Election, 2006 - Influence of The Internet - Regulations

Regulations

Regulation of political content online was an issue throughout the election period. The Media Development Authority (MDA) had reminded Internet content providers to comply with the law of Singapore, including those relating to political content. Online bloggers and podcasts are subject to the Parliamentary Elections Act.

In a notification issued by MDA under the Broadcasting Act, all political websites are required to register with the MDA. These websites include those belonging to political parties as well as to "individuals, groups, organisations and corporations engaged in providing any programme for the propagation, promotion or discussion of political or religious issues relating to Singapore on the World Wide Web through the Internet." A MDA spokesperson said that only a handful of websites have registered and that they mostly belonged to political parties or registered political associations.

Political analyst Cherian George noted that the regulation would hinder the development of citizen journalism in Singapore. A number of bloggers and political commentators had noted that the rules are too broadly defined and were unsure how they would be enforced. They protested that this was a violation of freedom of speech. A candidate Goh Meng Seng (WP) refused to register his blog, saying "I don't see the need to do so as an individual citizen. We have our rights to our political views."

In a parliament session on 3 April 2006, Balaji Sadasivan, the senior minister of state for information, communications and the arts, made some clarification on the regulation in response to a question by Low Thia Khiang. Balaji said that podcasting and streaming of videos were prohibited during the election. On the other hand, pictures of election candidates, political party histories and manifestos were allowed to be used as election advertising on the Internet. He added that bloggers who persistently promoted political views had to register with the MDA. During elections, only political parties, candidates and election agents are allowed to advertise. Balaji warned that those who violate the rules would face prosecution, and said "In a free-for-all internet environment, where there are no rules, political debate could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse, flush with rumours and distortions to mislead and confuse the public." The regulation of political content on the Internet had previously led to the closing down of a popular discussion forum website Sintercom in 2001, after the owner refused to register with the authority and voluntarily shutdown his website. Additionally, publication of election surveys during the election period or exit polls was banned.

Read more about this topic:  Singaporean General Election, 2006, Influence of The Internet

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