The Online Citizen now a one-man show

Chief Editor of The Online Citizen Terry Xu.
Chief Editor of The Online Citizen Terry Xu. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

The team behind socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC) has shrunk, and the site turns 10 this year as a one-man show.

Chief editor Terry Xu, 34, told The Straits Times yesterday that TOC is "only run by one person at the moment because it has no money to pay any writers or editors".

Many in its core team of editors and contributors in the past - prominent names in the civil society circuit - are no longer involved with TOC. Neither is it organising political forums or staging rallies at Hong Lim Park as it was around 2010.

Four men had held editorial roles with the website in September 2013. Besides Mr Xu, they are lawyer Choo Zheng Xi, blogger Andrew Loh and Mr Howard Lee, who does freelance media liaison work. Former editors also include Mr Ravi Philemon, a Singapore People's Party candidate in last year's general election. Former Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam of the Workers' Party was once deputy editor.

TOC was gazetted as a political association in 2011, requiring it to declare all donations. It also cannot receive foreign donations. It now relies heavily on crowdfunding and on reader contributions.

In its online call for submissions, TOC says it "might not" publish articles with unverifiable facts, vulgarities, or possible legal implications.

But its practice of this editorial policy has come under scrutiny, after Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam accused it of launching a "planned, orchestrated campaign" to discredit the police over the handling of a molestation allegation involving 14-year-old Benjamin Lim.

Former TOC editors are split over Mr Shanmugam's comments.

Mr Philemon said there was a need for "appropriate moderation" and fairness in any commentaries that are published.

But Mr Choo and Mr Lee said Mr Xu had done his best to get all sides of the story and tried to seek comments from the Government.

This is not TOC's first run-in with the authorities. Last year alone, it was issued at least three take-down notices for its articles.

One was for a letter written by the lawyer of teen blogger Amos Yee, which was deemed to be in contempt of court. Another was for an allegation that government monies would be used to finance the construction of an underground city for a population of 10 million.

In the third case, the Government invoked an anti-harassment law after TOC published and refused to take down an interview with Dr Ting Choon Meng, whose company sued the Defence Ministry in 2011 for infringing its patent for a mobile emergency medical station.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'The Online Citizen now a one-man show'. Print Edition | Subscribe