Singapore Herald website blocked over objectionable articles

Access to the Singapore Herald website has been blocked after it failed to remove articles deemed objectionable on grounds of public interest.

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) had earlier issued the website a notice to remove eight articles which "blatantly misrepresent Singapore's position in the ongoing situation with the Malaysian government".

The articles published between Dec 6 and 12 include: "Minister Khaw Boon Wan threaten Malaysia with armed forces over Johor Straits" and "Law Minister K Shanmugam backstab: Malaysia will be responsible for 'untoward situations'".

"Such false statements, especially the use of emotionally charged phrases like 'threaten' and 'provoke', might stoke feelings of ill will against Singapore, and undermine both sides' efforts to resolve the situation peacefully," said IMDA in a statement on Saturday.

IMDA said the articles also constitute prohibited material under the Internet Code of Practice. The deadline for their removal was 4pm on Friday. "As the editor of Singapore Herald has declined to take down the articles by the stipulated deadline, IMDA has directed the Internet service providers to restrict access to the website," the authority said.

An IMDA notice to the Singapore Herald on Friday said the misrepresentations were serious and egregious. Instead of reflecting Singapore's position that it will seek to defuse tensions amicably, the articles assert that Singapore is firm in its threat to use armed forces against Malaysia and to "turn the Johor Straits into a war zone".

IMDA added that the articles misquoted statements made by Singapore ministers. For example, Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli had said "the people are united", but this was distorted in an article on Singapore Herald, whose headline was: "Minister Masagos Zulkifli: Singaporeans are united against Malaysia."

Last month, IMDA blocked access to the States Times Review, which posted an article alleging Malaysia had signed several unfair agreements with Singapore in exchange for Singapore banks' assistance in laundering 1MDB funds.

Melody Zaccheus

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2018, with the headline 'S'pore Herald website blocked over objectionable articles'. Print Edition | Subscribe