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The States Times Review – a news website and Facebook page that covers Singapore politics with a pronounced anti-establishment stance – is live again in Singapore despite being blocked over the weekend by the government, following claims of defamation. 

Frenetic activity over the weekend saw the site taken down from view of people based in Singapore, after the intervention of regulator the Info-communications Media Development Authority. The IMDA got involved, following publication of an article allegedly linking Singapore with the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal. 

The IMDA notice stated: “The Monetary Authority of Singapore has clarified that the article in the States Times Review is baseless and defamatory.

“Accordingly, IMDA has assessed that the article undermined public confidence in the integrity of the Singapore government and is objectionable on grounds of public interest, and would therefore constitute prohibited content under IMDA’s internet code of practice.

“IMDA has issued a notice to States Times Review to take down the article by 5pm, 9 November 2018, failing which IMDA will direct internet service providers to restrict access to the site. As the offending article has also been shared on Facebook, IMDA has also asked Facebook to deny access to the said post.”

As a result, The States Times Review went offline at around 9pm on November 9 – according to local media reports. This was followed at 9:45pm by a notice on the title’s Facebook page announcing that the publication would be closing down after next year’s general election in Singapore. The site alleged it had been blocked under false charges of “fake news” and “criminal defamation”. 

It further stated that “the site shall cease and desist”, adding that “this Facebook page will shut down in two weeks from now”. The title’s owner and founder Alex Tan said the website itself would exist only until the general election scheduled for 2019, was over with. He claimed the decision was “of my own volition”.

As Facebook refused to take down the offending article from its platform on November 10, the IMDA stated: “As States Times Review has not complied by the stipulated time, IMDA directed internet service providers to restrict access to the site.

“All ISPs have effected the restriction. As the article has also been shared on Facebook, IMDA requested Facebook’s cooperation to remove the post.

“Facebook has indicated that they will not accede to IMDA’s request. With regard to further regulatory actions, IMDA will decide on the appropriate actions to take based on the facts of each case.”

Going by the comment thread on Facebook page, the site was still offline some 14 hours ago due to the ISPs taking action.

However, at the time of publication this morning the site was still live in Singapore.

The latest incident is not the first time Facebook has clashed with the Singapore government and threatens to heighten tensions overs ministerial plans to introduce ‘fake news’ legislation in the country, which could adversely effect the social network’s operations.

The IMDA had not responded to Mumbrella’s questions on the reasons the ban was lifted at the time of writing.

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