Reporters Without Borders today called on the Singaporean authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into a hacker attack on the Singapore Review, an online news group carrying messages critical of the government, in order to find out who was responsible.
The attack occurred on 6 October, two days after the news group was the subject of an article in a leading local newspaper, The Straits Times.
"Although Singapore is one of the Asian nations most connected to the Internet, online forums for free expression are rare there," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "With the city state closely controlling the news media and self-censorship widely practised, Internet forums like the Singapore Review give Singaporeans access to another view of current events, one free of state influence," he said.
The hacker broke into the forum moderator’s administrator account and bombarded forum members with false messages, sending between 150 and 200 of these e-mail messages every 20 minutes. As a result, some 200 members withdrew from the group, which is hosted by Yahoo!
On its welcome page, the Singapore Review describes itself as an "alternative to the government- controlled and propaganda-ridden media in Singapore." It carries international press reports and reports by human rights organisations. The moderator, who uses the pseudonym Mellanie Hewitt, encourages forum members to express their own views, "an aspiration which the local propaganda-driven media has been unable to fulfill."
Singapore’s government tries to impose "responsible" use of the Internet. In March, it set up a Cyber Wellness task force that is supposed to teach the population how to behave on the Internet. Its declared aims include preventing Internet uses from using pseudonyms in chat forums.
The Singapore Review’s web address is: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Sg_Review