The MDA requires importers to "ensure that the publications/ audio materials brought in for distribution do not feature content which could be considered objectionable on moral, racial or religious grounds, or deemed detrimental to Singapore's national interests".[29] According to the MDA, more than 2 million publications and 300,000 audio materials are imported into Singapore each year under the Registered Importers Scheme.[29] Foreign publications that carry articles the government considers slanderous, including The Economist and the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), have been subjected to defamation suits and/or had their circulations "gazetted" (restricted). The sale of Malaysian newspapers in Singapore is prohibited;[30] a similar ban on the sale of newspapers from Singapore applies in Malaysia.

In August 2006 the government announced a tightening of rules on foreign publications previously exempt from the media code. Newsweek, Time, the Financial Times, the Far Eastern Economic Review and the International Herald Tribune will be required to appoint a publisher's representative in Singapore who could be sued, and to pay a security deposit of S$200,000. The move comes after FEER published an interview with Singaporean opposition leader Chee Soon Juan,[31] who claimed that leading members of the Singaporean government had "skeletons in their closets". On 28 September 2006, FEER was banned briefly for failing to comply with conditions imposed under the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act.[32]

Pornography is strictly prohibited in Singapore; this encompasses magazines such as Playboy or Penthouse. However, magazines which are deemed non-pornographic and classified under "Adult Interest Magazines" such as Cosmopolitan are free to be distributed at all stores with a "Unsuitable For The Young" label on its cover.

In December 2008 a Singaporean couple was charged with sedition for distributing the Chick tracts The Little Bride and Who Is Allah?, said "to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between Christians and Muslims in Singapore".[33][34]

Does Singapore coordinate the censorship of the internet and traditional media, any explicit coordination? If it does, what organizations are responsible of coordinating the censorship of Singapore media? It mentions limiting the circulations of some publications, but without Internet censorship of these media outlets, they wouldn't be very effective at censoring the views of these media outlets.

1 Answer 1


There is no explicit "coordination". The PAP/Singapore government simply deals with traditional media and internet media separately.

  1. Local traditional media: No censorship because the PAP already completely controls this.
  2. Local internet media: What the PAP does not completely control is harassed, prosecuted, and sued to death. Otherwise, largely no censorship beyond occasional use of POFMA ("fake news" law) orders.
  3. Foreign media: No censorship.

The PAP/Singapore government has complete control of local traditional media through its control of Mediacorp and Singapore Press Holdings. These are the only two companies that have at present licences/permits to operate TV channels and publish daily print newspapers. These two companies are ostensibly private, but their editors and journalists are in practice under the complete control of the Singapore government.

Local internet media that is not completely controlled by the PAP/Singapore government is continuously harassed, prosecuted, and sued into bankruptcy. For example, The Online Citizen was a thriving online news website, but today has been reduced to a one-man show based in Taiwan.

Following the 2011 General Election "débâcle" where the PAP won "only" about 60% of the votes, several online news websites were set up by PAP affiliated persons to combat The Online Citizen: These include Mothership and The Independent, both of which thrive today.

According to one survey, Mothership is "the most used online news source". Sample of Mothership's front page right now as I'm writing this answer:

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Top story dutifully mimics other local traditional news outlets by reproducing the Prime Minister's speech to the outgoing President Halimah (nobody in Singapore cares about Halimah).

Next two stories are about sex crimes.

Most Singaporeans are not aware that Mothersip and The Independent were set up by PAP affiliated persons and are used by the PAP as a very mild outlet for the occasional slightly more controversial opinion.

In 2019, the PAP passed an "anti-fake news" law (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, commonly known by its abbreviation POFMA). In 2021, an additional law the Foreign Interference (Countermeasures) Act (FICA) was passed. These serve to further bolster the PAP's control of speech. POFMA has been repeatedly used to great effect, always against dissidents and never against pro-establishment figures.

More recently, a new local, non-PAP affiliated website Jom was set up. Already, it has been served with a POFMA ("anti fake news") order. Already, an The Economist bureau chief who wrote for Jom has been warned against "foreign interference" (see e.g. this Sep 2023 Bloomberg story). I will be pleasantly surprised if this website lasts more than a few years.

Blocking websites: Only a few websites have been outright blocked for political reasons: e.g. Lawyers for Liberty (based in Malaysia) and States Times Review (now dead and the founder Alex Tan seeking asylum in Australia).

In Sep 2023, the PAP blocked East Asia Forum (based at Australian National University), then unblocked it after the author (an academic at NUS) apologized and withdrew the offending article ("A spate of scandals strikes Singapore"). The NUS President duly reminded staff to "differentiate truth from falsehoods" and the local media duly reported on this.

Posts and comments made on social media (e.g. Facebook) under real names also face similar harassment, prosecution, and lawsuits.

In contrast, anonymous posts and comments made behind anonymous screen names on internet forums (such as Hardwarezone, Reddit, or Stackexchange) are tolerated.

In the past, foreign media were often also harassed and sued (1970s through 2000s and as late as 2006 as you cite in an example).

Today, the PAP/Singapore government seems to have recognized the folly and futility of such actions. Lawsuits simply get more Singaporeans to watch and read the offensive pieces. And anyway, foreign media rarely write much about the small country that is Singapore.

Today, the PAP/Singapore government does no more than occasionally write letters "correcting" the "mistakes" of such foreign media (e.g. about perhaps once a year, they write a letter to The Economist). The local media then dutifully reports that the offending foreign outlet has been "refuted" (example).

Print pornography is prohibited.

Internet pornography is by law prohibited but in practice tolerated. But the IMDA has a symbolic ban of about 100 porn sites (I believe mostly the world's most popular and "best" porn sites, much to the annoyance of some Singaporeans). Also, when arrested, dissidents and certain criminals will often have their computers and devices seized, whereupon additional possession of pornography charges will often be added on (I guess just to maximize their punishment and prosecutors' leverage).

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