Singapore—Blogger Leong Sze Hian’s crowdfunding success in the defamation suit brought against him by Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong may be perceived as a way to push back against lawsuits from the Government, according to a new article in international media news site VICE.
Mr Leong told VICE he hopes that “this will be the last time any of our ruling party politicians will sue citizens for defamation.
The PAP has to realise that it does not pay to sue ordinary Singaporeans, the people who they are meant to be protecting, by bringing us to court and treating us like criminals.”
Two days ago, Mr Leong wrote on his Facebook page that he had raised the S$133,000 needed to pay for damages the High Court awarded PM Lee in less than two weeks since he started crowdfunding with over 2,000 donors giving to his cause. ,
The 66-year-old blogger and financial adviser was sued by the Prime Minister for sharing a reportedly defamatory article from The Coverage, a Malaysian news site, on Nov 8, 2018.
He is quoted on VICE World News as saying, “It was a two-year ordeal and I’m just glad it’s over.”
Mr Leong is just the latest person to be sued by Singaporean leaders who have sued and obtained damages even from international media outfits such as the New York Times, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal in the past.
Mr Leong told VICE that he had been “specifically targeted” for having shared the post, even though he complied in removing it.
But the High Court’s Justice Aedit Abdullah said that the blogger had shared the article “without making any enquiries as to its truth whatsoever” and displayed “reckless disregard of whether the article was true or not”.
“When seen cumulatively with his refusal to apologise for the defamatory words, malice may be made out on the facts,” the judge added.
VICE also spoke to activist Roy Ngerng, now based in Taiwan, who had been successfully sued by PM Lee in 2014 for defamation.
Mr Ngerng could not raise the amount awarded for damages in the suit and had to leave Singapore.
He called Mr Leong’s crowdfunding success a step forward.
“Protests are not allowed in Singapore but the fact that Leong Sze Hian was able to raise that amount of money to pay off our prime minister sends a strong signal that Singaporeans no longer tolerate our government’s abuse of the law to go against those who dare speak up,” Mr Ngerng told VICE.
Associate law professor Eugene Tan explained that the Government takes accusations of wrongdoing very seriously and sees that lawsuits are “the only way” forward in clearing their names and reputations, especially in allegations of dishonesty, corruption or fraud.
“Then the person making the allegations must be able to back them up, otherwise defamation law comes into play,” he said.
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