In Singapore, up to 2,000 activists led by local bloggers staged a rally against recently introduced licensing rules for news websites, including breaches of “racial or religious harmony”, which protesters see as an attack on freedom of expression.
A crowd with posters denouncing “internet censorship” gathered on Saturday in Speakers’ Corner at Hong Lim Park to demand the withdrawal of the policy. The peaceful demonstration in the Southeast Asian city-state was organized by a group of bloggers called “Free My Internet.”
The message of the gathering - “the government must trust us, and stop treating us like babies,” said Choo Zheng Xi, the group’s spokesperson. “It is an international embarrassment when governments around the world are working to deregulate the Internet, and Singapore, one of the wealthiest nations per capita, is going in the opposite direction," the activist told AFP.
Under the rules that came into force in June, news websites must obtain annual licenses if they have over 50,000 unique visitors from Singapore every month and publish at least one weekly article on the island’s news over a period of two months.
To get the license, they must pay about $39,500 [US$31,623]. Also, licensed sources will be subjected to government control and will have to remove banned content – such as articles that undermine “racial or religious harmony” – within 24 hours after they get a notification from Singapore’s media regulator.