Newswatch | Newswatch

You are here

Singapore's assault on free press: Far Eastern Economic Review loses defamation case

Singapore's persecution of free press continues, FEER loses defamation case
Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew.Photo: Associated Press (AP) / Wong Maye

The Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) has defamed the city-state's two most powerful leaders, Singapore's High Court has ruled.

The publisher and editor of the magazine, owned by Dow Jones & Co, are to pay damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, after defaming them in an article published in 2006, Reuters reported.

The damages for the lawsuit, the latest in a string of legal action Singapore's political leaders have taken against foreign media, will be decided at a later date, the court judgment said.

The Reuters report provided some background:

The Lees sued the magazine and its editor Hugo Restall last year over an article on Chee Soon Juan, a prominent Singapore opposition politician. The August 2006 story, entitled "Singapore's Martyr: Chee Soon Juan", criticised the government's handling of a pay-and-perks scandal at the country's largest charity, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF). The charity's former head TT Durai has since been jailed.

"We are disappointed with the decision," Restall told Reuters, adding the magazine is considering an appeal. "It is notable that the court has determined that the public interest privilege that is available in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, is not applicable in Singapore," he said.

The magazine had cited fair comment in its defence, saying the article was of public interest, and that the media had a duty to publish it because the public had a right to know. But the judge said in the judgment that if such a defence holds, "a person could continue to make defamatory remarks about a person who enjoys the highest of reputations without being liable" in Singapore.

In a statement, FEER expressed disappointment with the ruling, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"It is notable that the court has determined that the public interest privilege that is available in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, is not applicable in Singapore," FEER said. "We are considering an appeal."

The magazine's lawyer, Peter Low, refused comment when contacted by AFP.

Earlier this month, Singapore's attorney-general initiated contempt charges against the Wall Street Journal Asia, also owned by Dow Jones, and two editors over editorials and a letter by Chee Soon Juan, which allegedly cast doubt on the integrity of the judiciary. The newspaper's publisher, Dow Jones Publishing Company (Asia), Inc, international editor Daniel Hertzberg and managing editor Christine Glancey face charges.

Date posted: September 24, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 1074