The Media Authority of Singapore (“MDA”) has suspended the statutory class licence for Ai Takagi and Yang Kaiheng to operate the website www.therealsingapore.com (“TRS”), and other related computer on-line services such as the TRS Facebook Page, Twitter Page and mobile applications. The MDA is satisfied that Takagi and Yang have contravened the Internet Code of Practice (ICOP). They have published prohibited material as defined by the Code to be objectionable on the grounds of public interest, public order and national harmony.
The MDA has noted that TRS has deliberately fabricated articles and falsely attributed them to innocent parties. TRS has also inserted falsehoods in articles that were either plagiarised from local news sources or sent in by contributors so as to make the articles more inflammatory. At least two out of TRS’s three known editors are believed to be foreigners – Takagi is Australian, while another editor Melanie Tan is believed to be Malaysian. The foreign editors were responsible for several articles that sought to incite anti-foreigner sentiments in Singapore.
The MDA believes this editorial strategy of deceiving readers and doctoring articles was an attempt to increase traffic to TRS, and thus boost advertising revenue. In so doing, TRS, including its two foreign editors, were seeking to make profit at the expense of Singapore’s public interest and national harmony.
Previously, Takagi and Yang were out of the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Act as they were running their operations from outside Singapore. However, since December, the two of them have been running their operations from Singapore, bringing them within the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Act.
Most recently, the MDA notes that Takagi and Yang have been charged with seven counts of publishing seditious articles on TRS and the TRS Facebook page. They have also been charged with refusing to comply with written orders to produce documents considered by the police investigator to be necessary for the investigation. They have also refused to disclose how much advertising revenue they have been collecting. Further, TRS has continued to publish material that contravenes the ICOP even after Takagi and Yang were charged.
The MDA has notified Takagi and Yang to immediately stop posting any more articles on TRS and related services; and within six hours disable access to their website and related computer on-line services. Thereafter, they are not to resume operations under any other name. They have also been given seven days to provide information relating to TRS’s operations and to make representations as to why their class licence should not be cancelled.