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‘No change to content’ of States Times Review, says founder just days after announcing ‘shutdown’

SINGAPORE — Just days after announcing that he is shutting down the States Times Review (STR) website, founder Alex Tan said he will continue putting up the same content on what will now be his “personal blog”.

A screenshot of the website States Times Review. On Oct 8, 2018, founder Alex Tan announced that the website will “shut down voluntarily", after "51 months of operations as a news media”.

A screenshot of the website States Times Review. On Oct 8, 2018, founder Alex Tan announced that the website will “shut down voluntarily", after "51 months of operations as a news media”.

Singapore

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SINGAPORE — Just days after announcing that he is shutting down the States Times Review (STR) website, founder Alex Tan said he will continue putting up the same content on what will now be his “personal blog”. 

Responding to TODAY’s queries via email, Mr Tan, who has been living in Sydney since March 2015, said on Wednesday (Oct 10): “STR will simply be the name of my blog. It is only a namesake… The content will not change.”

On Monday, Mr Tan announced on STR’s website and Facebook page that the site will “shut down voluntarily by today ending its 51 months of operations as a news media”.

He added that with “recent political development in Singapore” and the prospect of the authorities going after STR for allegedly “propagating fake news and foreign funding”, the site will function as a blog instead.

However, after the sudden announcement, Mr Tan continued putting up articles on the website. 

In his response to TODAY, he clarified that he had no intention to stop or change the content.

He said again that the STR website could be outlawed by proposed new laws, having “analysed” the report by the Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods convened by the Government.

Yet, when asked if he was concerned that his website could fall foul of any new legislation to curb fake news, Mr Tan said there is “nothing to be afraid of even (if) I were to continue running STR”.

“It is a legitimate website fully abiding (by) local (Australian) laws,” he said.

He added that STR “has set a precedent” — that an overseas news site “legally operating under local jurisdiction would have no standing obligations to the Singapore's censorship regime”.

Articles published by STR had been mentioned by the Singapore Government and experts as examples of misinformation.

In 2016, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam slammed the website and made a police report against it, over an article that attributed false comments to him.

The anonymous article on STR in October that year stated that Mr Shanmugam had made comments about the Eurasian community at a forum on changes to the Elected Presidency.

Last year, the website — along with The Real Singapore and All Singapore Stuff — was highlighted by Mr Shanmugam in a parliamentary speech as websites guilty of spreading fabrications.

Speaking to TODAY, Singapore Management University law professor Eugene Tan — who were among those who had made submissions to the Select Committee — noted that it was too early to tell what the proposed laws on deliberate online falsehoods would be like.

Nevertheless, current legislation, and any proposed laws, would focus on “the substance of the articles regardless of whether they originate from an alternative news site or a personal blog”, he pointed out.

“The authorities are not going to look at the articles found on STR differently just because of a cosmetic change. Thus, any law seeking to deal with deliberate falsehoods will not differentiate between a so-called alternative news site or a personal blog.”

He added that it was likely the STR founder was “ostensibly ‘downgrading’ (the website) as a prelude to shutting it down completely in its current form”.

In his responses to TODAY, Mr Alex Tan reiterated his desire to contest the next General Election (GE), which is due by April 2021. He claimed that he has “had enough of the impasse, and decided it is time to seize political power by personally contesting the election”.

Mr Tan was previously a member of the Singapore People's Party, and stood in the 2011 GE in the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency under the Reform Party banner. Mr Tan’s team garnered 30.7 per cent of the vote.

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