Singapore should end ban on websites, let parents use filters instead, govt committee says

SINGAPORE (AP) — A government-appointed panel urged Singapore to lift a ban on websites Wednesday, saying that Internet filters are a better way of protecting children from "objectionable content."

Singapore is known for its restrictions on public speech, which the government says are necessary to maintain political stability in the multiethnic, multi-religious city-state. Critics say the laws clamp down dissent.

But the banned websites are thought to be mostly racy or pornographic, though the government refuses to give a list of them. Playboy.com is known to be among them, and the government has said they all contain "objectionable content" that is inconsistent with the city-state's values.

"We need to move away from the prevailing reliance on government as guardian, and focus on the education and empowerment of parents to make appropriate and informed choices for their families," chairman of the Censorship Review Committee, Goh Yew Lin, said.

The Information Ministry appointed the committee in September 2009 and said it will respond to the recommendations within a month.

If implemented, the recommendations would mark an important policy shift and reflect a backlash against government paternalism from an increasingly prosperous and digitally savvy population.

The government, which has been ruled by the People's Action Party since independence in 1965, tends to micromanage the lives of Singaporeans. It bans the sale of chewing gum, exhorts citizens to speak proper English, and tries to stymie self-segregation by controlling the ethnic makeup of public apartment buildings, where about 80 percent of Singaporeans live.

The government has relaxed censorship in theater plays in recent years in a bid to develop Singapore's art scene and help make the island of 5.1 million people a more attractive place for foreign investment and workers.