SINGAPORE - A group of bloggers have called on the Media Development Authority (MDA) to revoke its decision to order the shutting down of socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) after suspending the statutory class license of its administrators to operate.
Describing MDA's action as "arbitrary" and "unsubstantiated", the FreeMyInternet group also asked MDA to come clean on its processes and standards as a regulatory body.
In a statement today, the group said: "While not all of us might necessarily agree with TRS's editorial direction or content, what TRS is alleged to have done is no reason for MDA to force a shutdown on the site."
The collective of bloggers said that "the unfettered power given to MDA is disproportionate in that it gives a statutory board the sole discretion to close down a website without due process, judiciary or otherwise".
The group added that MDA's explanation on Sunday, May 3, that TRS had "published prohibited material as defined by the Code to be objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony" and were "responsible for several articles that sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore", ran the risk of sub-judice, as the agency had taken actions that could potentially pre-judge the court case against TRS editors Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi.
In their statement, the FreeMyInternet group also said that MDA had exhibited inconsistencies in how it approaches "objectionable content".
The statutory board had said in its statement that "TRS has deliberately fabricated articles and falsely attributed them to innocent parties. TRS has also inserted falsehoods in articles that were either plagiarised from local news sources or sent in by contributors so as to make the articles more inflammatory."
But, the group questioned MDA's basis and standards for taking action against TRS, and asked why it was not sufficient to request for the removal of specific articles rather than the termination of the entire website.
"Without such clarity and accountability, we are left with no choice but to once again call doubt on MDA's ability to be a fair and effective media regulator," the group's statement added.
The group, which was founded in 2013 in protest against licensing requirements on news websites, also reaffirmed their position that the right way to deal with content deemed objectionable and offensive was through open discussion and reasoned debate.