FEER asks to use British counsel in defamation case

28 Apr 07

A leading Asian business magazine has applied to the Singapore High Court for permission to use a British Queen’s Counsel in a high-profile defamation case, its lawyer said yesterday.

The monthly Far Eastern Economic Review filed an affidavit arguing that it needed libel specialist Gavin Millar because of the complex nature of its defense in a suit filed by the city-state’s top leaders.

No local counsel

Peter Low, a Singapore-based lawyer for the magazine, said it could not find a local senior counsel to argue its case.

The Straits Times newspaper said yesterday that Singapore has 45 Senior Counsels, the local equivalent of the Queen’s Counsel. However, none of those approached have been willing to represent the magazine.

Millar is a Queen’s Counsel who specializes in defending libel claims and has successfully argued several high-profile cases in the UK.

The Far Eastern Economic Review is seeking to dismiss a libel case filed against it by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Lee Kuan Yew.

Alleged defamation

The Lees sued the magazine’s editor, Hugo Restall, and Hong Kong-based Review Publishing, its owners, alleging defamation in an article based on an interview with pro-democracy activist Chee Soon Juan.

The article entitled “Singapore’s `Martyr,’ Chee Soon Juan,” described the Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general’s battle against the ruling People’s Action Party and its leaders.

In the article, Restall also touched on Singapore officials’ success in libel suits against critics.

Unfounded attacks

Singaporean leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages in defamation cases against critics and foreign publications, which they say are necessary to protect their reputations from unfounded attacks.

The city-state banned distribution of the magazine in September, saying it had failed to comply with media regulations.

A hearing for the magazine’s application to use the Queen’s Counsel was set for May 10.