It may come to the surprise of some readers, but The Online Citizen (TOC), the local news website that previously got into hot waters with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), is back online.
As of Friday (16 Sep), its website and social media accounts have been reactivated.
Its Chief Editor, Terry Xu Yuanchen, said that he will be “relocating” to Taiwan, and he will be registering the alternative news site under a new company there.
TOC was founded in December 2006, but it went offline in September 2021 after the IMDA suspended, and subsequently cancelled, its class licence for repeatedly failing to declare all its funding sources.
Though Mr Xu did file a judicial review to overturn IMDA’s order in Dec 2021, it was dismissed by the High Court.
Simultaneously, Mr Xu had his own legal problems to tangle with too.
In late 2018, he was accused of defaming members of Cabinet when he approved the publication of a letter which alleged that there was corruption at the highest echelons.
He was eventually charged for criminal defamation in Nov 2021 and was sentenced to three weeks in jail. He has already served his time, of course.
Prior to this incident, Mr Xu also lost a defamation lawsuit that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong filed against him back in 2014.
The defamation suit involved a TOC-published article entitled “PM Lee’s wife Ho Ching weirdly shares an article about cutting ties with family members”, while quoting a Facebook post made by PM Lee’s sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling.
PM Lee ultimately won the case and was given $210,000 in damages.
With all that has been said and done, neither the Singapore court nor the IMDA likes Terry Xu.
The feeling is probably mutual.
Moving Operations To Taiwan
Between trying to get another class licence in Singapore and starting a new company elsewhere, it is quite obvious which one is easier to accomplish.
Upon reactivating TOC’s website and social media pages, Mr Xu wrote, “Both the operation of the website along its social media platforms have been transferred to a new company that is registered in Taiwan while the Singapore entity is in the midst of closure.”
With some tongue and cheek, he also highlighted the fact that the Singapore courts “has made clear that we are not prohibited from operating from outside of Singapore”.
Hence, that is what TOC will be doing.
Furthermore, Mr Xu announced a trajectory change for the future TOC: instead of providing daily news coverage, the new TOC will be focusing on commentaries and analysis on the current affairs of Asia.
More details will be announced “in due course”, said Mr Xu.
Honestly though, will he be okay in Taiwan, when China is busy breathing down the island’s neck?
Singapore’s press freedom is dubious at best…
But the less that is said about China’s, the better.
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