MDA suspends duo's licence to run website

MDA suspends duo's licence to run website
Couple charged in court, Yang Kaiheng, 26, and his girlfriend Ai Takagi, 22, allegedly published seditious articles on sociopolitical website The Real Singapore (TRS) between October 2013 and March this year, which promoted ill will and hostility between different classes of the Singapore population.

Socio-political site The Real Singapore (TRS) was taken down on Sunday evening, after its editors' licence to operate the site was suspended by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Yesterday afternoon, MDA had instructed TRS not to post any new articles on the site and to take down the site by 8pm the same day.

As at 7pm, the editors had taken down the site, leaving only the following message: "The Real Singapore has been ordered to disable access to all our online services by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore."

It is the first time MDA has suspended the licence of a site's editors. The agency explained in a media briefing yesterday that they have published material that is "objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony".

If the site's operators had failed to follow these instructions, they could have been fined a maximum of $200,000 and/or jailed for up to three years.

The move comes after the couple behind TRS, Yang Kaiheng and Ai Takagi, were charged last month with seven counts of sedition and one of failing to produce documents to a police officer.

Yang, a 26-year-old Singaporean student, and Takagi, his 22-year-old Australian girlfriend, had published articles on the site between October 2013 and February this year which allegedly promoted ill will and hostility between different races or classes here.

Yesterday, MDA said TRS has "deliberately fabricated articles and falsely attributed them to innocent parties", in what the agency believes is an attempt to increase the site's traffic.

The agency suspended the statutory class licence for Yang and Takagi to operate the website and related sites such as the TRS Facebook and Twitter pages, and other mobile applications.

In a statement issued at the briefing, MDA also noted that TRS "has...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".

It added that at least two of TRS' three known editors are believed to be foreigners. Apart from Takagi, a third editor, Melanie Tan, is believed to be Malaysian.

"The foreign editors were responsible for several articles that sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore," MDA said.

"TRS, including its two foreign editors, were seeking to make profit at the expense of Singapore's public interest and national harmony."

MDA has also instructed Yang and Takagi not to resume operations under any other name. They have been given seven days to provide information relating to TRS' operations and to make representations as to why their class licence should not be cancelled.

If their licence is cancelled, Yang and Takagi will not be allowed to operate the website. Prosecutors will also be able to take other actions including blocking access to the site and working with social media channels to block access to TRS' social media pages.

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