SINGAPORE - Access to socio-political website The Real Singapore (TRS) has been disabled on Sunday evening after the Media Authority of Singapore (MDA) suspended the statutory class licence of its administrators to operate.
MDA announced the unprecedented move on Sunday 2pm and gave the administrators of the website a six-hour window to disable TRS on its online and social media platforms. It also stipulated that the administrators had to cease posting any new articles immediately.
Five hours later and the website was taken down. Users were directed to a page with the message: "The Real Singapore has been ordered to disable access to all our online services by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore."
TRS administrators Ai Takagi and Yang Kaiheng, who are Australian and Singaporean respectively, were found to have contravened the Internet Code of Practice, MDA said.
Yang, a 26 Singaporean student, and his girlfriend Takagi, 22, are currently facing seven counts of publishing seditious articles on TRS and the TRS Facebook page, and one of failing to produce documents to a police officer.
Yang and Takagi have seven days to provide information to MDA regarding TRS's operations and to make representations as to why their class licence should not be cancelled.
The statutory board under the Ministry of Communications and Information added in its statement Sunday that they have published prohibited material as defined by the Code to be objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony.
"The MDA has noted 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," the statement added.
Besides Ai Takagi, another of TRS's three known editors is believed to be a foreigner - Melanie Tan is believed to be Malaysian. MDA said that the foreign editors were responsible for several articles that sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore.
"The MDA believes this editorial strategy of deceiving readers and doctoring articles was an attempt to increase traffic to TRS, and thus boost advertising revenue.
"In so doing, TRS, including its two foreign editors, were seeking to make profit at the expense of Singapore's public interest and national harmony."
MDA said that Yang and Takagi have refused to disclose how much advertising revenue they have been collecting from running TRS.
MDA added that Yang and Takagi were out of the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Act as they were running their operations from outside Singapore.
"However, since December, the two of them have been running their operations from Singapore, bringing them within the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Act."
The TRS administrators are not allowed to resume operations under any other name, the statement said.