ST: Offensive online content: MDA investigates all feedback (March 1)

Saturday, March 1, 2008

March 1, 2008
Offensive online content: MDA investigates all feedback
By Lynn Lee
NOMINATED MP Thio Li-ann yesterday asked what action the Government
would take against those who posted offensive content online, and
whether it monitored television programmes for objectionable content.

For instance, if laws were violated, would it help persons defamed
online to identify the relevant Internet service providers?

'Online defamation may be considered a private matter although the
Media Development Authority (MDA), as gatekeeper, may bear
complicity...owing a duty of care to protect individual reputation,'
she said.

Senior Minister of State for Information, Communications and the Arts
Balaji Sadasivan assured her that the MDA would investigate all
feedback. Anyone could lodge complaints and on average, MDA receives
one to two a month.

It would have no qualms about using the law on those who made remarks
to incite racial and religious hatred.

But otherwise, it would continue to regulate Internet content with a
light touch, he said.

He added that libel and defamation lie outside the MDA's scope of
regulation, but online content is subject to existing laws, such as
the Penal Code.

As for TV content, Dr Thio cited a letter by Mr Bennie Cheok published
in the The Straits Times Online Forum. Mr Cheok had complained about
the screening of a programme during prime cartoon time on a Sunday,
that portrayed a gay couple with a child.

Dr Thio said that the show violated screening rules that require
themes like homosexuality to be 'cautiously treated and not glamorised
and endorsed'.

During last October's parliamentary debate on amendments to the Penal
Code, Dr Thio had made an impassioned plea for sex between men to
remain a crime here.

Dr Balaji said the MDA had received a complaint about the show and was
looking into the matter.

But he also pointed out that the show was part of a series on home
decoration and design. That particular episode was about a game room
in a home of two men and a child.

Their relationship was an 'incidental feature' of the programme, Dr
Balaji said, and Singaporeans would 'need to take a balanced view'.

He stressed that TV, especially free channels, would continue to
promote traditional family values.