Magazine defamed leaders, rules Singapore court

Magazine defamed leaders, rules Singapore court

Singapore: Singapore’s high court has ruled that the Far Eastern Economic Review has defamed the city-state’s two most powerful leaders, a court document said on Wednesday.

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

Dow Jones and Co. is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and publishes, among others, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), which has an exclusive content partnership in India with Mint. The damages for the lawsuit will be decided at a later date, the court said.

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 2006 story, titled “Singapore’s Martyr: Chee Soon Juan", criticized the government’s handling of a pay-and-perks scandal at the country’s largest charity, the National Kidney Foundation. The charity’s former head T.T. Durai has since been jailed.

The lawyer representing the Review could not be immediately reached for comment.

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 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".

Dow Jones is also facing contempt proceedings brought against it by Singapore’s attorney general for printing editorials that “impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the Singapore judiciary" in the Asian edition of WSJ.

Singapore leaders have sued and won damages in the past from foreign media groups, including The Economist, International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg.