Shutdown ends hands-off policy put in place in 1996 writes Asia Sentinel.

Singapore’s Media Development Agency has shut down its first Internet site, an innocuous fledgling called the Breakfast Network that was run by Bertha Henson, a former journalist with Singapore Press Holdings who now is a journalist in residence at a local college while acting as a media consultant.

The action was taken under media guidelines published in May that required all Internet sites to register with the government if they have 50,000 unique visitors a month. They must put up S$50,000 bond if they report more than one article a week on Singapore-related news over a period of two months. If the government objects to an article, it must be taken down within 24 hours.

Screengrab of the "Breakfast Network" website.

The registration and banning puts an end to 17 years of so-called “light touch” regulation put in place by the Media Development authority to foster the country’s image of high-tech communications to lure western technology and communications companies.

The Breakfast Network didn’t appear to be doing anything sinister beyond not bothering to register – which may have been more out of not being prepared than any defiance. Henson said in a parting posting that she had only started the website to give journalism students at her college the opportunity to write and publish under professional guidelines and standards.

“Singapore’s vibrant ecosystem of socio-political blogs was spared the discretionary licensing regime that has blocked the development of alternative print and broadcast media, wrote blogger and media critic Cherian George. “Blogs could be punished if what they published broke the law – but they were never expected to persuade regulators that they deserved the right to publish before they were allowed to do so. Until today.”

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