Singapore imposes licensing fees on news websites

New York, May 29, 2013–Singapore’s plan to impose licensing fees on news websites will further stifle the press in the city-state’s already claustrophobic media atmosphere, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

“These licensing fees shut another door to public discussion,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. “The regulations allow the government to exert the same pressure on digital media that it already does over traditional print and broadcast media.”

Singapore’s Media Development Authority (MDA) issued a statement on Tuesday that said that any news websites with an average of at least one Singapore-related news article per week over two months, or any site that gets 50,000 unique visits, must pay 50,000 Singapore dollars (almost US$40,000) to receive an annual license. The payment is similar to what individually licensed TV broadcasters must pay, the statement said.

Channel NewsAsia reported that at least 10 websites currently fall under these guidelines: Asia One, Business Times, Channel NewsAsia, Omy, Stomp, Straits Times, TNP, Today Online, Zaobao, and Yahoo.

The news websites must also remove what the authorities call “prohibited content”–such as any articles that undermine racial or religious harmony–within 24 hours after being notified by the MDA.

The plan is due to take effect June 1.

Any websites that do not comply with the conditions would be fined or suspended, news reports said. The MDA said that the policy could be extended to foreign news sites covering Singapore news.

  • For more data and analysis on Singapore, visit CPJ’s Singapore page here.