Call for rare protest rally in government - approved “Speaker’s Corner” next Saturday
Singapore’s blogging community is rebelling against a stringent new law that requires online news sites to put up a performance bond of $50,000 and to submit to government censorship, calling for the general public and bloggers to rally next Saturday against the measure.
Last Tuesday the Singapore Media Development Authority issued the new regulations, which it said were designed to place the websites “on a more consistent regulatory framework with traditional news platforms which are already individually licensed.”
The protest group, calling itself “Free My Internet,” is asking Singaporeans to rally in Hong Lim Park, the site of Singapore’s speaker’s corner, where a May 1 protest drew 3,000 participants protesting the government’s plans to let in vast numbers of new immigrants. It was said to be the biggest protest crowd in Singapore in modern times.
“We encourage all Singaporeans who are concerned about our future and our ability to participate in everyday online activities and discussions, and to seek out alternative news and analysis, to take a strong stand against the licensing regime which can impede on your independence,” the organizers said. “We urge Singaporeans to turn up to send a clear message to our elected representatives to trust the Singaporeans who elected them.”
The message was signed by 35 bloggers, who asked all Singapore bloggers to go black for 24 hours from midnight June 6.
“You can choose to create your own blackout notice, or use www.freemyinternet.com we have created for your convenience,” the group said. “When you reopen your blog, write your account of the protest, about the new regulations and censorship, or anything related to media freedom in Singapore. Share your thoughts. Share your hope that the light that free speech provides will not go out on us.”
The Speaker’s Corner, modeled after London’s free speech site of the same name, is hardly free. Demonstrations are allowed only by Singapore citizens and attended by Singapore citizens. Banners, films, flags, photographs, placards, posters, signs, writing or other visible representations or paraphernalia containing violent, lewd or obscene material must not be displayed or exhibited, the government says. Events must not deal with any matter that relates directly or indirectly to any religious belief or to religion generally, or which may cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different racial or religious groups. Events adhering to the regulations are not immune from other existing laws such as those relating to defamation and sedition, which in Singapore can be extremely broad, especially when the Lee governing family is mentioned.
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