Singapore’s controversial “news licensing” law, which forces popular news sites to get a government approval continue to exist, has led to its reported first casualty.
R.I.P. the Breakfast Network, a Singapore-centric news blog run by journalist Bertha Henson.
The city-country’s Media Development Authority, the government agency tasked with enforcing that law, told Henson in November that since her site was “a corporate entity providing political commentary and news, they could be susceptible to foreign funding.” She disagreed, of course: Snapshots of her blog still visible at the Internet archive show it’s a small operation, focused on blogging news items like making fun of Anonymous for getting angry at Singapore.
But since June, that’s been the law. Any locally based site that has more than 50,000 monthly visitors, reports on local happenings, and sometimes mentions politics has to pay a staggering 50,000 SGD ($39,764 U.S.) for a news license. And to apply for such a news license, a website owner will have to agree to a long list of guidelines for acceptable content, which means any site that “advocates homosexuality or lesbianism” won’t make the cut.
Despite its fear that the site could secretly be accepting foreign funding, the MDA claimed in the same statement that “content is not the issue. Rather, it is the mode of operation,” and that since Henson refused to register, she was also barred from posting on Breakfast Network’s corresponding Facebook page and Twitter Feed.
Of course, Singapore has no means to shut those down, unless the MDA plans to physically restrain the people maintain them. Both are still very active.