The Online Citizen’s licence suspended for not declaring funding
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) has suspended The Online Citizen's (TOC) class licence to run its website and social media channels.
In a statement yesterday, IMDA said the socio-political website has repeatedly failed to comply with its legal obligation to declare all sources of funding since around the middle of last year.
TOC was required to stop posting content on its website and social media channels immediately and disable them by 3pm tomorrow, IMDA said.
It added that if TOC continues to operate while in breach of the requirements, it may take steps to block access to TOC in Singapore.
If TOC "does not provide further information to bring it into full compliance", its class licence could be cancelled by Sept 28, said IMDA, adding that TOC's officers may be liable for criminal offences under the Broadcasting Act.
Other registered Internet content providers (ICPs) provide this information to be transparent about their funding, said IMDA.
TOC is one of two websites that are currently classified as registered ICPs by IMDA. The other is The Independent Singapore.
Past websites that had registered as ICPs include Six-Six News and The Middle Ground, both of which are no longer in operation.
Such websites, which focus on political issues in Singapore and engage in online promotion or discussion of these issues, must declare sources of funding.
"This is to prevent such sites from being controlled by foreign actors, or coming under the influence of foreign entities or funding," IMDA said.
The requirement has been in place since 2013.
Mainstream news websites are not considered ICPs as they are regulated separately under the Broadcasting Act and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.
Under the regulations for ICPs, details on the sources of all funding must be declared by default.
TOC was given a final opportunity to explain its non-compliance by Monday.
In a letter to IMDA posted on his Facebook page on Monday, TOC's lawyer Lim Tean accused IMDA of hypocrisy and inconsistency for allowing Critical Spectator's website and Facebook page to comment on Singapore affairs and politics despite it being run by a foreign commentator, Polish national Michael Petraeus.
Mr Lim said TOC intends to challenge the suspension of its class licence by way of a judicial review.