Media Censorship Review in Singapore

 Singapore responds to new media

20th August

The Advent of New Media...

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Singapore to lighten up on censorship...maybe

Singaporeans are abuzz yet cautious about government pledges to ease restrictions on free speech and public assembly in the city state.

Writers, filmmakers, activists, and politicians are either expressing optimism or warning against too much of it, after the country's prime minister promised to allow more issues to be ventilated in the notoriously restrictive political environment of Singapore -- subject to certain "ideals" of factuality and nonpartisanship.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, acknowledging the advent of new media, announced during the National Day Rally on August 17 that the government will ease the ban on political videos and outdoor public demonstrations, media reports said.

An outright ban is no longer sensible, he said. At the same time, he noted that such relaxation of restrictions will still be guided by what he called safeguards. I think some things should still be off limits... (for instance) if you made a political commercial so that it's purely made-up material, partisan stuff, footage distorted to create a slanted impression .

The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society, led by former "Singapore Press Holdings" editor-in-chief Cheong Yip Seng, will present its recommendations on these issues later this month.

The Straits Times reported the prime minister as saying that political films will be dealt with in ways similar to non-political films, with censorship and film classification standards, with a panel to decide whether or not a political film would pass.

Singaporean film makers expressed mixed feelings with this development. This is by far the most obvious relaxation of political space in Singapore in the past 20 years. It will lessen the climate of fear, according to film maker Martyn See who had two of his films banned in recent years.


9th September

Update: Good, But Not Good Enough...

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Response to Singapore's new approach to new media censorship

Good, but not good enough.

That was the verdict yesterday of a group of bloggers on a list of proposals the Singapore Government-sponsored panel had put up for managing new media.

It has some good, forward-looking options but the approach was overly-cautious, said a group which calls itself The Bloggers 13 .

The Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (Aims) has released its consultation paper and is now seeking public feedback on its proposals.

In fact, for every Aims suggestion that called for a relaxing of restrictions, the bloggers went one-up and asked for the law to be removed completely.

Where the panel gave three ideas for easing the ban on party political films, the bloggers wanted an unconditional repeal of Section 33 of the Films Act.

They also wanted Section 35 of the Films Act to go, a move that would strip the Government of powers to ban films

The panel had also urged that more activities be allowed for online election advertising. But the bloggers asked if such a list is even necessary.

Similarly, they disagreed with Aims' suggestion that political bloggers be exempted from registering under the Class License Scheme. They want it dumped altogether. The scheme requires all who deal with political material or religious issues online to register with the Media Development Authority.

In addition, it treats all websites as automatically licensed, meaning their owners must adhere to a prescribed code of conduct. For instance, the code prohibits the posting of pornographic material. The bloggers argue that existing laws adequately deal with pornography or racial and religious hate-mongering without the need for such a scheme.

The only suggestion they agreed with is the lifting of the ban on 100 websites. Aims believes that once its proposals for the protection of minors are in place, the list becomes unnecessary.


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