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Protests against new online rules

Over 1500 Singaporeans gathered for a rally against new online regulations.

A protest called Free My Internet Rally took place in Hong Lim Park at the Speaker’s Corner on Saturday afternoon. Those who gathered for it are fighting against the licensing rules implemented by Media Development Authority's (MDA) for the Singapore online news sites including Yahoo portal.

The five-hour demonstration was organized by a group of popular bloggers who peacefully rallied for their freedom of speech that could be constrained by these new rules. They asked the MDA’s decision to be revoked.

"We will reveal more details; it (the campaign) will include things like encouraging people to lobby their Members of Parliament (MPs) so their MPs can push for legislation change in Parliament. It will include... encouraging a dialogue between us and the MDA with the view of withdrawing the legislation” said Elaine Ee, co-founder of political news site publichouse.sg.

The new rules state that if a website has at least 50,000 unique visitors every month and publishes at least one local news article every week has to request a license, renewable annually. This way websites that feature “prohibited content” can be requested by the MDA to remove the material within 24 hours.

The online community feels that the internet is the only place where they can express alternative views freely without any constraints and because of the new rules the online medium will be perceived as being pro-government like traditional media.

Last Thursday another movement was organized by bloggers and over 170 Singapore websites replaced their home pages with blacked-out screens and the hashtag #FreeMyInternet. They said that the government ignored them.

The movements will continue until some changes are made.