You know when sometimes when someone leaves a good job to ‘pursue his own interests’ or to ‘spend more time with his family’, it usually means they’ve been fired? It means you really got to learn to read between the lines, because sometimes people just won’t tell you the real reasons for their actions.
So when MDA says it doesn’t want to change the editorial slant of Internet news sites, that it only wants to ensure consistency across media, we’ve got to read between the lines.
MDA doesn’t need more powers to take down a really offensive posting. Google acceded almost immediately when asked to take down The Innocence of Muslims on YouTube. And if takedowns are rare– with only one in the last two years– then why does MDA want more powers? Do they expect a lot of recalcitrant websites in the next two years? They don’t say.
MDA says there’s “no change to the content standards, which require sites to make best efforts to keep their sites free of harmful content which are against public interest, public morality, public order, public security and national harmony. These same class licensing guidelines will continue to apply under the individual licence.” But if there’s no change to standards, then why issue new regulations? They don’t say either.
MDA also says the “performance bond of $50,000….need not necessarily entail cash up front. Licensees can consider options such as banker’s guarantee or insurance. MDA will be happy to engage in further discussions with any licensee who may have concerns about meeting the licence obligations.”
But that’s not the point, is it? Because if anything MDA doesn’t like happens, they can just call on the bond, and the website owner will be out of pocket $50k. They don’t need to charge a person, prosecute, go to Court, present evidence before a judge, get a verdict. No, just one phone call and they take the money. If that isn’t an instrument of control, I don’t know what is.
MDA claims it’s “about consistency in treatment, not clamping down the Internet: Singaporeans are increasingly accessing news and current affairs over the Internet. The adjustment recognizes the trend and provides greater regulatory consistency between online news sites and traditional media platforms such as newspapers and TV broadcasters, which are currently already individually-licensed.”
Did you recognize the irony in the above? Consistency in treatment, by definition, is going to be the first step in making Internet media like mainstream media– muzzled, state-controlled, often living in fear of their licences not being renewed at the discretion of the Minister. In other words, MDA wants to control the Internet news sites just like they control the traditional media. That’s the ultimate in consistency across media, isn’t it?
So what is really behind MDA’s move? What aren’t they telling us? Why do they want all this power over websites? What is the ‘right news’ that Yaacob wants Singaporeans to read? Why do they want all this control?
Is someone in Govt wiling to tell the real story?