Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Online Citizen will NOT register as a political association!

C'mon, what other way can they use to show how defiant they can be against the government? The 14-day deadline by MDA to register will come & go and TOC will still not register as a political association.

No, they will chose to shut down their website & return with a stupid new name like "The (New) Online Citizen" or "The Online Citizen...is back!"

Yeah. Not really looking forward to it.

SOCIO-POLITICAL blog The Online Citizen may become the first website here to be gazetted as a political association, which will bar it from receiving foreign donations.

The Registry of Political Donations said that it had sent a letter to the editors of the website on Monday, informing them of the Government's intention to gazette the site as a political association.

Earlier on Tuesday, The Online Citizen (TOC) had put up a posting informing its readers of the move.

Separately, the Media Development Authority (MDA) has also sent an e-mail to the site's editors asking them to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification.

The two moves require the website to submit particulars of the people behind it.

The Registry of Political Donations, for instance, has asked it to identify its owners, editorial team and administrators. It also has to name a president, treasurer and secretary.

From Straits Times, "The Online Citizen to be listed as political association".

The Registry of Political Donations under the Prime Minister's Office has confirmed it sent a letter to The Online Citizen (TOC) portal of its intention to gazette it as a political association.

On Tuesday morning, TOC had posted on its website that it received an email from the Prime Minister's Office on this.

Responding to media queries, the Registry said the Political Donations Act (PDA) prohibits political parties, political associations and candidates in parliamentary or presidential elections from accepting donations from impermissible or foreign sources. In addition, it requires these entities to report large donations received.

The Registry added that as a website that provides coverage and analysis of political issues, TOC has the potential to influence opinions and shape political outcomes in Singapore.

The Registry said that as such, the portal has to be gazetted to ensure it is not funded by foreign elements or sources.

Apart from this, the Registry added that TOC is "entirely free to continue with its normal, lawful operations and to receive financial support from Singaporeans and Singapore-controlled companies".

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has also written to TOC, asking it to register its website in 14 days.

It said the registration is to "emphasise to Internet Content Providers to be responsible and accountable for what they say online ...which is important given that Singapore is a multi-racial, multi-religious society".

MDA qualified that registration "does not mean that the discussion of political topics is disallowed" and "does not entail more stringent conditions".

The move to gazette and register requires the portal's owners, employees and staff to be identified.

Commenting on the issue, Singapore Management University's Assistant Professor of Law, Eugene Tan, said: "With the general elections round the corner, this development can be seen as administrative house-keeping by the authorities in the lead-up to the hustings."

He noted that the Registry's requirement to gazette and the MDA's requirement to register were two different things.

But he added: "The concern in both cases is to inject responsibility and accountability in parties engaging in local politics. After all, the content of TOC is as political as those of the political parties in Singapore and is likely to be active in stories relating to the elections."

The move to call for registration is not unprecedented.

In July 2001, the Singapore Broadcasting Authority (MDA's predecessor) required Singapore Internet Community's (Sintercom) founder Dr Tan Chong Kee to register Sintercom - an Internet forum that provided for discussion on various national issues.

The explanation then was that such content providers had to be responsible and transparent when engaging in Singapore's political issues.

The last group to be gazetted is human rights advocacy NGO Maruah in November last year.

From Channel NewsAsia, "The Online Citizen portal to be gazetted as political association".



Update on 19/01: The appeal is rejected. As expected, though I'm sure TOC is quite surprised that the 14-day deadline still stays the same. Six more days counting down for this intriguing site to shut in oblivion...

THE Prime Minister has reaffirmed his decision to gazette The Online Citizen (TOC) blog as a political association, turning down an appeal from the site.

The Registrar of Political Donations, who comes under the Prime Minister's Office, on Tuesday wrote to TOC acting chief editor Joshua Chiang, 35, and co-founders Choo Zheng Xi, 25, and Andrew Loh, 43, to inform them of the decision.

From Straits Times, "The Online Citizen's appeal rejected".

The government has rejected a request from The Online Citizen (TOC) not to be gazetted as a political association.

This was in response to a written request from the TOC addressed to the Prime Minister last Friday, asking for a reversal of the decision and an explanation.

In a reply on Tuesday, the Registry of Political Donations which comes under the Prime Minister's Office said the decision was made after careful consideration.

The letter emailed to TOC said: "The Prime Minister re-affirmed the decision" to gazette.

That gives the political blog six more days to provide the identities of its owners, editorial team and administrators.

It will also need to designate a President, Treasurer and Secretary, who will be responsible for the preparation and accuracy of TOC's donation reports.

According to the Political Donations Act, the definition of "political association" includes "an organisation whose objects or activities relate wholly or mainly to politics in Singapore, and which is declared by the Minister to be a political association."

The Registry said this definition clearly applies to TOC, whether or not it considers itself non-partisan.

Once gazetted, TOC will also be barred from accepting foreign donations.

According to the Act, this is to protect Singapore's political process from being manipulated by foreign interests.

Explaining the decision in the letter to TOC's Acting Chief Editor, Joshua Chiang, and co-founders Choo Zeng Xi and Andrew Loh, the Registry said the blog is "not a passive website that simply hosts social or political commentary by individuals which have nothing to do with it".

It said TOC "provides coverage, commentary and analysis of political issues, and is a platform for discussing such issues."

It added that TOC has organised online and offline campaigns to change legislation and government policies.

It has also organised a forum for local politicians, and run polls on public support for local politicians as well as political issues concerning Singapore.

TOC will no longer be allowed to receive anonymous donations beyond S$5,000 a year and must file annual reports on significant donations received.

Responding to TOC's claims that it is largely staffed by volunteers and has never accepted foreign donations, the Registry said the website should then have no difficulty in complying with the Act's regulations.

The Registry also reiterated that being declared a political association will not hinder TOC's existing activities.

From Channel NewsAsia, "Online Citizen's appeal not to be declared a political association rejected".

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