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The Online Citizen's class licence cancelled after repeated refusal to declare funding sources: IMDA

The Online Citizen's class licence cancelled after repeated refusal to declare funding sources: IMDA

The Online Citizen logo. (Photo: Facebook/The Online Citizen)

SINGAPORE: The Online Citizen (TOC) has had its class licence cancelled after it repeatedly refused to declare its funding sources, said the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) on Friday (Oct 15).

TOC's website and social media accounts had already been deactivated since Sep 16, after authorities suspended its licence for failing to submit the required information despite "multiple reminders and extensions".

IMDA then gave the alternative news provider a final deadline of Sep 28 to provide the information to comply with the Broadcasting Act. 

"As at Oct 14, 2021, TOC has still not submitted the required information. TOC has also publicly stated that it will not be providing the required information," said IMDA on Friday.

"TOC’s clear and persistent refusal to be transparent and to provide the necessary information to bring it into full compliance with the Broadcasting Act and the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification compels IMDA to proceed with the cancellation of TOC’s class licence with immediate effect."

All Internet content providers (ICP) such as TOC are automatically class-licensed under the Broadcasting Act. Traditional news providers are individually licensed under the Broadcasting Act (TV broadcasters) and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act (newspapers) respectively.

ICPs which engage in the online promotion or discussion of political issues relating to Singapore are "required to be transparent" about their sources of funding, said IMDA in a media release.

"This is to prevent such ICPs from being controlled by foreign actors, or coming under the influence of foreign entities or funding, and to ensure that there is no foreign influence in domestic politics."

IMDA said last month that TOC had previously declared its funding sources when it first registered in 2018. But in 2019, it failed to verify a donor and clarify discrepancies in its foreign advertising revenue, for which the authority issued a warning in May this year.

In its 2020 annual declaration, TOC "repeatedly failed" to declare all its funding sources and informed IMDA that it does not intend to comply.

With the cancellation of its class licence, it will be an offence for TOC to operate any licensable broadcasting services, said IMDA.

Source: CNA/gs(ac)

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