Political podcasts and streaming video feeds will be banned during Singapore’s next general election, a government minister said Monday.
The Internet activities of political parties and candidates during an election period are governed by a list of permitted activities, called the “positive list,” contained in Singapore’s Election Advertising Regulations.
“Podcasting does not fall within this list,” said Dr. Balaji Sadasivan, senior minister of state for information, communications and the arts. He defined podcasting as “the provision of an audio feed over the Internet to subscribers.”
The minister also had a word of caution for Singaporean bloggers. “Private or individual bloggers can discuss politics. However, if they persistently propagate, promote or circulate political issues relating to Singapore, they are required to register with the MDA [Media Development Authority],” he said.
Individuals are also banned from streaming “explicit political content” over the Internet during the election, he said.
Balaji’s comments came in response to a question raised during a session of Parliament.
Singapore’s print and television media is tightly regulated by the government. The recent rise in popularity of blogs and podcasts led some observers to wonder whether the Internet might play a more important role in the next election, which is expected to be called sometime during the next few months.
However, Balaji’s comments appeared to rule this out as a possibility, saying the government wanted to ensure a “factual and objective” discourse during the election.
“In a free-for-all Internet environment, where there are no rules, political debates could easily degenerate into an unhealthy, unreliable and dangerous discourse flush with rumors and distortions to mislead and confuse the public,” Balaji said.
The next general election will be the first since Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong took office in 2004. His party, the People’s Action Party, has ruled Singapore since the country’s independence in 1965.