FEER files defence statement in Singapore libel suit

13 Aug 07

The Hong Kong-based magazine, Far Eastern Economic Review, has submitted its defence statement to a Singapore court in a libel suit brought against it by two of the city-state’s top leaders, court documents showed on Monday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and former premier Lee Kuan Yew sued the magazine – owned by Dow Jones & Co – and its editor Hugo Restall in August last year over an article on prominent Singapore opposition politician Chee Soon Juan.

The 50-page defence statement, filed late on Friday, argued that the article did not defame the prime minister and his father because it was based on facts and fair comments.

It also argued that the topics addressed in the article were of public interest, and that Chee had qualified privilege to comment on them.

The article that sparked the lawsuit, entitled “Singapore’s Martyr: Chee Soon Juan”, criticised the government’s handling of a pay-and-perks scandal at the country’s largest charity. The magazine also quoted Chee attacking the Lees.

Singapore leaders have sued and won damages in the past from foreign media groups when they report on local politics, including the Economist, the International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg, as well as Far Eastern Economic Review when it was published as a weekly news magazine.

The leaders in the Southeast Asian city-state say the lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputations.

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