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Cablegate: Bloggers Demand Internet Freedom

VZCZCXRO9205
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHGP #0534 1300556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 090556Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5270
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SINGAPORE 000534

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV SN
SUBJECT: BLOGGERS DEMAND INTERNET FREEDOM

REF: A. SINGAPORE 379
B. SINGAPORE 362
C. SINGAPORE 251
D. SINGAPORE 247
E. SINGAPORE 236
F. SINGAPORE 233

1. (U) Thirteen Singaporean bloggers submitted proposals for
increased internet freedom to the Ministry of Information,
Communications and the Arts (MICA) in late April. The
proposals called for a change in the law that requires
registration of political- or religious-focused websites.
The bloggers, including media professor Cherian George and
activist Alex Au, argued that citizen committees should
regulate online content, citing other citizen committees that
play a role in deciding what films, publications, and theater
productions are permitted to be shown or distributed in
Singapore.

GOS Response
------------

2. (U) In its May 5 response, the GOS assured the group of
bloggers that "we have been reviewing our light-touch
approach and are considering how we could take a
lighter-touch approach." This assurance follows Prime
Minister Lee Hsien Loong's statement last month that the GOS
is reviewing the regulations covering new media and will
update the regulations before the next election in 2011.

Satire on the Web
-----------------

3. (SBU) The February escape of detainee Mas Selamat Kastari
gave bloggers a chance to push the envelope of the current
regulations (reftels). Blogs, such as Talking Cock and Mr.
Brown, included sarcastic updates on the as-yet-fruitless
search for Kastari. Talking Cock provided its readers with a
"Terrorist Spotter": Kastari's mug shot in a variety of
different disguises including a blonde wig and a pirate cap.
Talking Cock's website also includes "Pac Mat," a version of
Pac-Man in which players, as Kastari, try to escape
Singapore,s military and police (after seven levels of
evading increasingly responsive military and police forces,
Kastari is inevitably caught by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan
Yew).

4. (SBU) Comment: While the GOS has been notably silent about
bloggers' responses to the Kastari escape, this is likely an
effort on their part to avoid drawing more derision. Neither
the government's silence in the past few months nor the
promised "lighter-touch approach" suggest that a loosening of
Internet restrictions is imminent. End comment.

Visit Embassy Singapore's Classified website:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eap/singapore/ind ex.cfm
SHIELDS

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