6 Apr 2006

Singapore attacked over blog gag

From the BBC Technology Section.

The Singapore government has been condemned for gagging political discussion on the web in the run up to the country's parliamentary elections.

The government has extended censorship laws to ban podcasts and videocasts that carry political content.

Websites and blogs are already under strict control and must be registered with the government.

Media watchdog Reporters without Borders said the ban would prevent democratic debate on the net.

The ban was outlined by Communications and Arts minister, Balaji Sadasivan of the People's Action Party in a parliamentary speech.

It is enforced under a 2001 law that seeks to prevent overt advertising by political parties.

New technology

It will come as a blow to the main opposition party, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).

It has used both podcasts and videocasts in an attempt to get round traditional media censorship laws in their campaign.

The party said on their website that the latest announcement was aimed "squarely at the SDP's efforts to harness the new technology to advance its platform in the upcoming general elections".

For its part, Reporters without Borders said: "Once again the Singapore authorities are showing their determination to prevent the holding of a genuinely democratic debate on the internet."

No date has yet been announced for the election.

Outside of election periods, bloggers and website managers have to register with the Media Development Authority (MDA) if they want to write about party politics.

However during elections even registered users are prohibited from open political discussion.

The government said that anyone breaking the ban faces legal action.

The announcement is an extension of the Singapore's government strict censorship policy that applies to all media.

Recently the government relaxed some of its laws in an attempt to market the country as a hub for arts and culture.

The film, Brokeback Mountain, passed film censors this year, in spite of the country's stringent laws against homosexuality.


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