SINGAPORE – 16 DEC 2021
The High Court has dismissed an application by The Online Citizen Pte Ltd (“TOC”) to commence Judicial Review (“JR”) proceedings against the Infocomm Media Development Authority (“IMDA”).
IMDA suspended TOC’s class licence on 14 September 2021, and subsequently cancelled it on 15 October 2021, as TOC had repeatedly refused to comply with licensing conditions which required it to declare its funding sources annually. This requirement is to prevent registered Internet Content Providers from being controlled by foreign actors or coming under the influence of foreign entities or funding, to ensure there is no foreign influence in domestic politics.
In its application to commence JR proceedings, TOC did not challenge IMDA’s suspension of TOC’s class licence. However, TOC took the position that the suspension of its class licence only affects its ability to operate its English websites and that IMDA could not require TOC to disable its Chinese website or its social media accounts.
In its decision, the High Court affirmed that TOC’s class licence covers TOC’s provision of all online services. Therefore, the suspension of TOC’s class licence will apply to all of TOC’s online services, which includes its Chinese website and social media accounts. The High Court further noted that TOC had failed to follow the procedure provided by law to appeal to the Minister for Communications and Information under the Broadcasting Act, before applying to commence JR proceedings. An applicant seeking JR is expected to exhaust all alternative remedies before applying to the court to commence JR proceedings.