Thursday, February 23, 2012

A History of Defamation Suits and Other Similar Actions in Singapore

1987

Lee Kuan Yew sues Far Eastern Economic Review for defamation. Damages unknown.

1988

J.B. Jeyaretnam sued for slander for allegedly implying that Lee Kuan Yew had abetted Teh Cheang Wan's suicide and helped to cover up Teh's corruption. Jeyaretnam was found guilty and was ordered him to pay damages of S$260,000 plus costs to Lee.

1994

International Herald Tribune and journalist Philip Bowring were sued for defamation by Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong and Lee Hsien Loong for an article that referred to 'dynastic politics' in East Asian countries including Singapore. In that settlement, Bowring agreed not to say or imply that the younger Lee had attained his position through nepotism by his father Lee Kuan Yew. $950,000 in damages were awarded.

1995

J.B. Jeyaretnam was sued twice for libel by Indian PAP leaders for an article in the Workers' Party newspaper, which alleged that a number of those involved in an event called the Tamil Language Week were government "stooges". Total damages of S$465,000 and S$250,000 in court costs were awarded.

1997

Tang Liang Hong sued for defamation by Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Chok Tong, Lee Hsien Loong and Tony Tan and several other PAP MPs for making statements which falsely questioned their integrity, during the 1997 general elections. A total of 13 judgments were entered against Tang for defamation. Damages were assessed by a judge of the High Court at a total of $8,075,000. Tang fled the country and has not returned to Singapore since 1997 and continues to live in Australia.

11 defamation suits were also filed by Goh Chok Tong against J.B. Jeyaretnam for announcing that Tang Liang Hong had made two reports to the police against Goh. PM Goh alleged that his "reputation, moral authority and leadership standing have been gravely injured both local and internationally." Damages of $20,000 were initially awarded. Goh appealed against the ruling and the damages were raised to a total of $120,000 including court costs.

2001

After the 2001 general election, Chee Soon Juan was sued for defamation by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew for remarks he had made during the campaign about an alleged loan to Indonesian President Suharto. Chee lost the lawsuits and was ordered to pay damages of S$300,000 to Goh and S$200,000 to Lee.

J.B. Jeyaretnam was declared bankrupt for an overdue installment on the damages that he owed to PAP ministers.

2002

The makers of a 15-minute documentary submitted written apologies and withdrew it from being screened at the Singapore International Film Festival after they were told that they could be charged in court for violating the Films Act which banned political films. The film was entitled A Vision of Persistence and was a documentary based on Jeyaretnam.

2005

Government movie censors ordered the withdrawal of Martyn See's film, "Singapore Rebel", from the Singapore International Film Festival. See was put under police investigation by the Singapore government, and threatened with prosecution under the Films Act, requiring him to surrender his video camera, taped footage of the documentary and materials related to the production.

T.T. Dural sued SPH and its senior correspondent Susan Long for a report over "a glass panelled shower, a pricey German toilet bowl and a gold-plated tap", and implied allegations regarding misuse of NKF funds. The defamation suit was withdrawn.

2006

On 10 February 2006, Chee Soon Juan was declared a bankrupt by the High Court after failing to pay the damages owed to Goh and Lee.

Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong awarded US$300,000 against Chee Soon Juan & SDP for libel regarding an article that questioned the government for its handling of the NKF scandal. On 20 June 2006, Chee was charged in court for eight counts of speaking in public without a licence between 13 November 2005 and 22 April 2006 in violation of the Public Entertainments and Meeting Act. Two other SDP members were also charged. Chee was fined $5,000. On 23 November 2006, he was jailed for five weeks for failing to pay the fine. Two other SDP members, Gandhi Ambalam and Yap Keng Ho, were also imprisoned.

July 2006 — Mr Brown's column in Today is suspended after his essay titled 'Singaporeans are fed, up with progress', invokes a harsh response from Ms K. Bhavani, press secretary to the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts (Mica). Bhavani said Mr Brown's views 'distort the truth' and offered no solutions. 'His piece is calculated to encourage cynicism and despondency, which can only make things worse, not better, for those he professes to sympathise with,' she said.

Singapore bans and files defamation lawsuits against the Far Eastern Economic Review for the article "Singapore's 'Martyr': Chee Soon Juan."

2007

Financial Times was sued for an article for which they finally admitted was "meant or was understood to mean: that Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew secured, or was instrumental in securing, the appointment of his son, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, as Prime Minister, for nepotistic motives; that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong secured, or was instrumental in securing, the appointment of his wife, Ms Ho Ching, as the Chief Executive Officer of Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited for nepotistic motives; and, that Ms Ho Ching is promoting her brother-in-law Lee Hsien Yang’s interests by securing or helping to secure his appointment as Mr Jackson Tai’s replacement at DBS Bank for nepotistic motives." Damages paid unknown

2008

Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong awarded US$416,000 in damages against Chee Soon Juan and Singapore Democratic Party, stemming from 2006 defamation case.

On 24 September 2008, the High Court, ruled that the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) editor Hugo Resta11 had defamed Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong. The court found that the 2006 article "Singapore's 'Martyr': Chee Soon Juan" meant that Lee Kuan Yew "has been running and continues to run Singapore in the same corrupt manner as Durai operated NKF and he has been using libel actions to suppress those who would question to avoid exposure of his corruption." The court order FEER to pay damages to the complainants.

2010

Lee Hsien Loong, together with Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, threatened legal action against The New York Times Company which owns the International Herald Tribune regarding an Op-Ed piece titled 'All in the Family' of 15 February 2010 by Philip Bowring. The Herald Tribute apologized in March that readers of the article may 'infer that the younger Lee did not achieve his position through merit'. The Times and Bowring also agreed to pay S$60,000 to Lee, S$50,000 to Lee Kuan Yew and SG$50,000 to Goh (total amounted to about US$114,000 at the time), in addition to legal costs.

2012

Blogger Alex Au was served a defamation letter from K Shanmugam's lawyers regarding unknown "swirling allegations" concerning Shanmugam and Foo Mee Har. Alex Au retracted the comments and published Shanmugam's lawyer's letter on his blog.

Temasek Review Emeritus was served defamation lawsuit threat from PM Lee Hsien Loong for publishing an article alleging nepotism surrounding Ho Ching's appointment to Temasek Holdings. TRE publishes apology and deletes the offending article.

Temasek Review Emeritus was served  a Letter of Demand by Lee Hsien Yang's lawyers regarding an allegedly defamatory comment posted on the site. TRE reaches amicable settlement with Lee and acknowledges regret for the comment and deletes it.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting article. Would you like to update it to include the Alan Shadrake' case?

Would you also be good enough to email a copy of your updated article to Freedom House? It publishes annual reports on freedom of expression on most countries.

levi john said...

wow very nice these things it should shows important historical moments in Singapore. In the year 1995 specifying the TamilEducation.

Anonymous said...

Freedom of expression, even if unjustified and without factual basis?