Veteran architect Tay Kheng Soon has commented that reporters in Singapore are not even-handed and “see their job as serving the powers that be” instead.

Mr Tay, the architect behind iconic structures in Singapore like KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Golden Mile Complex and the People’s Park Complex, made this remark as he commented on media coverage pertaining to the defamation case Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has filed against The Online Citizen (TOC).

On 1 Sept, PM Lee asked Mr Xu to remove a TOC article and Facebook post repeating allegations of abuse of power that his sister Lee Wei Ling made in 2017.

The PM asked TOC to publish a “full and unconditional apology,” along with an undertaking that it would not publish similar allegations in the future, and warned that he will take legal action if TOC does not comply.

On Wednesday (4 Sept), TOC editor Terry Xu stated that he will not comply with the demands set out in PM Lee’s letter. On Thursday (5 Sept), PM Lee’s lawyers served Mr Xu with a writ of summons and a statement of claim, initiating a defamation case against him.

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The next day (6 Sept), Mr Xu wrote on Facebook that he will not be answering media queries for details on the lawsuit initiated by PM Lee since reporters are not asking the Prime Minister the same questions they are putting to him.

Noting that anything said by any parties can be considered in the court hearing in a defamation case, Mr Xu asserted that it was the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) that made the matter a “media event by forwarding the letter of demand from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the press immediately after it sent me the same letter on 1 Sept 2019.”

Directing reporters to the PMO if they seek more details, Mr Xu said that he is not willing to answer the questions that PM Lee will not answer. He said:

“My stance is taken as such especially because the reporters are not asking the same kind of questions to the Prime Minister himself and even if they do, it is unlikely he will be replying to them. So why should I do anything different from what he is doing?”

In a comment on Mr Xu’s post, Mr Tay made a pointed remark against mainstream media reporters as he said: “Most reporters are not even handed. They see their job as serving the powers that be.”

Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chairman Paul Tambyah echoed Mr Tay’s sentiment and called on reporters to ask the Prime Minister the same questions that are being fielded to the defendant:

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Mr Xu has since filed a memorandum of appearance with the High Court, in response to the writ of summons and statement of claim filed by PM Lee’s lawyers on his behalf. The memorandum of appearance, which was filed today (10 Sept) indicates that Mr Xu will contest the defamation action brought on by the head of government.

Revealing that he will represent himself in court, Mr Xu said that he intends to directly question Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong why he is suing him, instead of suing his own siblings, since TOC merely republished his siblings’ original comments.

Mr Xu is expected to enter his defence for the case within two weeks from today. A pre-trial conference is scheduled to take place next month, on 15 October 2019 at 9.30am.