Singapore—The High Court on Wednesday (Mar 24) ordered blogger Leong Sze Hian to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong $133,000 in damages for defamation.
The breakdown of the amount Mr Leong has been ordered to pay is $100,000 in general damages and $33,000 in aggravated damages.
The Prime Minister had sought damages of S$150,000 for the alleged defamation.
Mr Leong, who is also a 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.
In a written judgment, 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.”
However, the judge also said: “The malice in this case, unlike in several of the other cases cited to me, did not involve a defendant wilfully posting something he knew to be false at the time of posting, nor did it involve a defendant who defiantly insisted on the truth of his libellous claims to the bitter end despite clear evidence to the contrary.”
Ms Chang Li Lin, the press secretary of the Prime Minister, said that PM Lee has nothing to add to the decision handed down by the judge, reports straitstimes.com
Mr Lim Tean, opposition leader and lawyer for Mr Leong, has called Justice Aedit’s decision “wrong and deeply flawed”.
He wrote in a Facebook post that he is “disappointed by the decision and believe (s) the judgment to be wrong and deeply flawed!”
According to Mr Lim, numerous important critical facts had not been taken into account by the judge, which includes “the fact that Sze Hian was the only person, out of over 9000 others who shared the post, who was served with an IMDA notice to remove the alleged defamatory article.”
He added that the blogger took the post down when he received the notice from the IMDA ((Infocomm Media Development Authority) two days after he shared the article.
However, three days later, he was served with a claim letter by Lee Hsien Loong.
The Prime Minister “did not even serve claim letters on The States Times Review or The Coverage, who were the originators of the alleged libellous article,” the lawyer added.
Mr Lim also wrote, “How does one vindicate one’s reputation by not going after the originators of the words complained of? Our courts should not be entertaining surrogate litigation by allowing Plaintiffs to claim against persons such as Sze Hian who only share something they came across on social media, like over 9000 people did!
“I also strongly disagree with the Judge’s quantification of damages, which has no bearing to reality.”
He added that he will be discussing this with the blogger and advising him on his options.
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