Singapore – Blogger Leong Sze Hian was ordered by the High Court on Mar 24 to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong S$133,000 in damages for defamation. After two days of crowdfunding, Mr Leong has raised S$31,052.
Mr Leong, a financial adviser, was sued by Mr Lee for sharing a reportedly defamatory article from The Coverage, a Malaysian news site, on Nov 8, 2018.
The article, originally published in the States Times Review, contained libellous material claiming Mr Lee had helped former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak launder money in relation to corruption-mired Malaysian state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Justice Aedit Abdullah said in a written judgment that the blogger had shared the article “without making any enquiries as to its truth whatsoever,” displaying “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.”
On Nov 30, Mr Lee sought damages of about S$150,000 for alleged defamation by Mr Leong.
The final amount was set at S$133,000, S$100,000 for general damages and S$33,000 in aggravated damages.
Mr Lim Tean, opposition leader and lawyer for Mr Leong, has called Justice Aedit’s decision “wrong and deeply flawed”.
He took to Facebook on Mar 24 to express being “disappointed by the decision and believe(s) the judgment to be wrong and deeply flawed!”
On Mar 25, Mr Lim announced that the People’s Voice and volunteers were coming up with ways to help Mr Leong crowdfund the amount.
“I am delighted with my team’s idea of selling signed copies of the sketch depicting myself cross-examining the Prime Minister, which I did extensively during the trial,” said Mr Lim.
Each copy costs S$133, with all proceeds going directly to Mr Leong.
In an update on Friday (Mar 26), Mr Leong noted that after two days of crowdfunding, 510 people had donated a total of S$32,052.
He shared that the highest amount was S$3,000, the lowest being S$3.50. The most popular numerations were S$50, S$20 and S$13.
“Thanks so much, am very grateful,” wrote Mr Leong.
He added that the most touching message he received was, “not much, but I belong to the low-income group, all the best to you, Leong.” /TISG
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