SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Singapore on Friday banned the distribution and possession of Al Fatihin, a newspaper linked to the Islamic State militant group, after government officials repeatedly warned against terror threats.
The wealthy city-state saw its first case of terrorism financing this month, with four Bangladeshi men jailed for terms ranging from two to five years for funding attacks in their South Asian homeland.
“The Singapore government has zero tolerance for terrorist propaganda and has therefore decided to prohibit Al Fatihin,” the Ministry of Communications and Information said in a statement.
Launched in the southern Philippines on June 20, the paper, whose name means “The Conqueror” in Arabic, is also distributed in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and southern Thailand, the Straits Times newspaper said this month.
“ISIS is a terrorist group which poses a serious threat to the security of Singapore,” the ministry added. “Al Fatihin is yet another step by ISIS to spread its propaganda abroad, with a clear intention to radicalize and recruit Southeast Asians.”
The newspaper is published in the Indonesian language, which is very close to Malay, Yaacob Ibrahim, Singapore’s minister in charge of Muslim affairs, said in the statement.
Anyone convicted of possessing or distributing the newspaper faced a fine or imprisonment, or both, the statement added.
The fine can range up to S$10,000 ($7,380), and the jail term up to three years for a first offense, rising to four years for subsequent offences, the Straits Times newspaper said.
Al Fatihin is mainly distributed online, said Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University.
“I have not seen a printed version in Singapore,” Gunaratna told Reuters this month. “It is primarily directed at Indonesia and Malaysia. The number of potential supporters and sympathizers in Singapore is very small – insignificant.”
(Reporting by Masayuki Kitano and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)