Confirmed personal information of contributors and benefactors to The Online Citizen (TOC) must be provided before contributions can be accepted and recognized by the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and be considered a ‘verified local source.’
In a memo to TOC, IMDA firmly states that the publication is only permitted to receive donations from “verified local sources” for the management and/or operation of TOC website. This means that for any donation that does not come with the mandatory personal data, will not be recognized the amount as a “verified local source” and under the Form C1 which TOC has signed, the resources obtained will be given back to the source or will be contributed to any specific charitable trust designated by IMDA.
To steer clear of suspicion and uncertainties, IMDA has a criteria for a contributor to become a verified source – full name, identification number, and his/her Singapore citizenship status.
Meanwhile, TOC alleged that these three criterion were not enforced during the donation driver before the actual 2015 general election where it raised SG$60,000. According to TOC, the move is pure intimidation and an act of press harassment.
The Online Citizen
Founded and established in December 2006, TOC is a community blogging platform engaged in political activism within Singapore. It portrays itself as a cluster of advocacy correspondents who report on issues not generally covered by the mainstream media.
The Singapore Registry of Political Donations categorized the platform as a political group in 2011, pointing out that the editors of the website arranged online and offline campaigns to amend legislation and revise government policies. Under the Political Donations Act, political bodies cannot collect or accept money from foreign contributors and unnamed contributions higher than SGD 5000.
In February 2018, TOC was de-gazetted as a political organization as it is presently run and managed by only one man – editor Terry Xu, who has been responsible for the platform’s content development 2011, when its core team of editors left.