It was only a matter of time before popular current affairs platform Mothership got hauled in by the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore. According to Singapore’s The Straits Times, the website was asked to register with the Authority today. While the request might sound innocuous, the implication is that the website, funded by a Project Fisher-Men, will not be able to receive foreign investments once it registers.
In the same report, MDA announced that after assessing Mothership, it had found the website to meet its “registration criteria”, and will require the team of four staffers to register by April 11.
Previously, MDA had asked two other current affairs sites to do the same, namely The Independent Singapore and Breakfast Network. Only one is still running as a business, while the other has reverted back to being a personal blog. On December 6, 2013, The Independent Singapore submitted its registration form to MDA, under class licensing rules, according to Today Online. Breakfast Network, on the other hand, declined, and was asked to not operate on any platform on the web.
Mothership noted and asked on its Facebook Page, “The Mothership.sg team is mulling our next steps. Which articles on Mothership.sg do you think caught the eye of the regulators?” Meanwhile, this move to regulate the internet, especially when it comes to current affairs websites, has gotten local netizens talking about online freedom.
Last year, more than 2,500 individuals gathered at Singapore’s Hong Lim Park to protest the new MDA rule regarding online websites. The ‘Free My Internet’ cause also spoke in a statement about their concerns regarding the closure of Breakfast Network. It wrote, as published on The Independent:
“MDA’s obsession with seeing foreign funding without proof of its existence is unhealthy, as it automatically casts a suspicious glow on any home-grown website that seeks to find a footing in Singapore. As noted by TISG, in contrast, MDA has no such qualms when it sought to register Yahoo Singapore, which is an American-owned entity. This smacks of double standards, and a lack of clarity in what MDA hopes to achieve by registering websites.”
Visakan Veerasamy, an online blogger, also shared his thoughts with e27:
“I think it’s just silly and unnecessary. I suppose the MDA is concerned about rogue foreign influences or something but they need to realise that it just looks really bad in this day and age when everything is so liquid. Anyway, if you try to stop people from getting foreign funding, there are surely loopholes and way-arounds. I think the MDA needs to come out to the public and explain their concerns and reservations.
I think people are concerned about internet freedom stuff because it almost feels like the MDA is this secret censorship police. If they have good intentions on behalf of the country, it would do them well to have a spokesperson- or better yet, the CEO, etc- come out and talk openly about what they think the media needs, and how to best navigate it.”
More details to follow.
Do you think Mothership should register with MDA? Share your thoughts below!