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Govt orders shutdown of The Real Singapore

SINGAPORE — The authorities have clamped down on a website’s operations here for the first time, suspending the statutory class licence of The Real Singapore’s administrators and ordering them to cease operations.

Govt orders shutdown of The Real Singapore

The duo behind The Real Singapore, Ai Takagi (right) and Yang Kaiheng (left) arriving at court on Apr 14, 2015. TODAY file photo

SINGAPORE — The authorities have clamped down on a website’s operations here for the first time, suspending the statutory class licence of The Real Singapore’s administrators and ordering them to cease operations.

The Media Development Authority (MDA) said the website had broken rules under the Internet Code of Practice under the Broadcasting Act, by publishing articles that were against public interest and national harmony.

Singaporean Yang Kaiheng and his Australian girlfriend Ai Takagi were ordered to cease posting on the website and all related social media sites and mobile applications. The various platforms also had to be taken down by 8pm today (May 3). The duo have also been banned from resuming operations under any other name.

By 7.30pm, the website had been cleared of content and its Twitter and Facebook accounts were also deleted.

Announcing the suspension in a media release today, the MDA said The Real Singapore has sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore, and deliberately fabricated articles and falsely attributed them to innocent parties. “(The website) has also inserted falsehoods in articles so as to make the articles more inflammatory,” the authority said.

In 2013, The Real Singapore posted an article titled “PAP MP Irene Ng: We should not play the blame game over the haze problem”, prompting the Member of Parliament to file a police report, saying she did not write it. 

In the same year, the website published a Straits Times report on a Singaporean teenager found guilty of growing cannabis at home with the inaccurate headline “Indian national grew two pots of cannabis at Yishun home after learning it online”.

The MDA said the administrators have broadcasted “prohibited material”, defined under Section 4 (1) of the Internet Code of Practice as content that is “objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public morality, public order, public security, national harmony, or is otherwise prohibited by applicable Singapore laws.”

The authority added: “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 profit at the expense of Singapore’s public interest and national harmony.”

Last month, Yang, 26, and Takagi, 22, were charged in court with seven counts of sedition. In one charge, the duo was accused of publishing an article alleging that a Filipino family’s complaint had led to a dispute between the police and Thaipusam participants.

The duo had previously operated the site outside of Singapore, beyond the reach of the Broadcasting Act. But since last December, they have been running their operations from Singapore. A third person linked to the website, a Malaysian who calls herself Melanie Tan, is not in Singapore.

The couple has been given seven days to appeal against the suspension and make representations as to why their licence should not be cancelled. They also must submit information detailing the site’s operations — such as a list of individuals involved in the operations and financial statements — to the MDA within seven days.

Should they refuse to provide the information, they could be fined up to S$5,000, jailed up to a year, or both.

TRS did not respond to media queries by press time.

Und​er the Class Licence Scheme, Internet Service Providers and websites are automatically granted class licences, while certain websites like those set up by political parties or those involved in the propagation, promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore will be asked to register. Among the websites that have been asked to register in recent years are The Independent, and The Online Citizen. All three complied.

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