Photo of K Shanmugam from AFP

In response to social media theonlinecitizen’s extensive coverage on the teen suicide case which resulted in fallen ratings for the Singapore government, the Media Development Authority (MDA) is now getting the website to cough out S$5,000 it received in advertising fees it received in April 2015.

The advertiser was UK-based Monsoons Book Club who used the website’s platform to organise an essay competition. Using the advertiser’s foreign registration as an excuse, the MDA ruled that this is breaching the media censorship license rule.

Under Singapore’s media censorship license registration, local news media are not allowed to receive funding from foreign sources. In their official media statement, MDA said:

“TOC Ltd is registered under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification as an “Internet content provider engaged in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore”. As part of the registration, TOC had undertaken not to receive funding from foreign sources for the provision, management and/or operation of the website, except for bona fide commercial purposes.

TOC Ltd’s receipt of the advertising revenue from MBC is thus a clear breach of the licence conditions.

This is to ensure that foreign entities do not engage in domestic politics and to uphold the principle that domestic politics must remain a matter for Singapore and Singaporeans alone.”

The censorship law was enacted to deter the formation of alternative news sites which do not subject themselves to the same control under the government as the Singapore Press Holdings does.

TOC has 30 days to pay up S$5,000 or face a de-registration leading to a shut down. Earlier this week, Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam was chastising the website for publishing falsehoods with intent to mislead the public over the suicide case of Benjamin Lim. This MDA move is clearly politically-motivated.