After two months simmering away in the blogosphere and making the occasional appearance in the mainstream press, the government finally addressed the question of political blogging.
It has clarified the situation somewhat, but on a closer analysis, not quite enough.
The clarification came on 3 April 2006, when Balaji Sadasivan responded to a parliamentary question by Low Thia Kiang, (Workers' Party, Hougang). This is the part of the reply pertaining to political blogging:
Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. However, if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they are required to register with the MDA. During the election period, these registered persons will not be permitted to provide material online that constitutes election advertising.
-- MITA website ('MITA News') accessed 4 April 2006
For the text of Minister of State Balaji's reply, see Parliament questions about internet regulation
The MDA is the Media Development Authority, whose job is really that of censoring people rather than developing anything.
As you can see, after saying "bloggers can discuss politics" -- nobody ever said they couldn't outside of the election period -- the Minister of State for Information, Communication and the Arts qualified his comments almost immediately.
The first qualification was that if a website persistently propagates, promotes or circulates political issues, it has to be registered. As a sentence, this is very badly constructed. One never propagates, promotes or circulates "issues", but certain points of view. Because the sentence is badly constructed, its meaning is unclear.
It sounds as if a site that discusses political issues, even in an opinionated way, is not within the ambit of the sentence, but one is left unsure . The MDA's website uses a slightly longer expression: "propagation, promotion or discussion of political or religious issues", yet Balaji dropped the word "discussion" from his Parliamentary statement.
This is confusing. Perhaps he means to be more liberal-minded now, but unless the MDA's own regulations are changed, which version are we to rely on?
Secondly, even if a site persistently propagates, promotes or circulates political issues -- whatever that means -- it still can do so, provided it is registered.
So what's the point of registration, you might ask? I don't think I can give you any answer that makes sense. See the section below 'Why register?'
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