FEER magazine to appeal Singapore defamation ruling

Koh Gui Qing & Kevin Lim

The Far Eastern Economic Review
will appeal against Singapore’s High Court ruling that it has defamed two of the country’s most powerful leaders, the magazine’s publisher said on Wednesday.

Singapore’s High Court ruled in September the publisher and editor of the magazine, owned by Dow Jones & Co, are to pay damages to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father Lee Kuan Yew, also a former prime minister, after defaming them in an article published in 2006.

“We have filed notice that we are appealing the decision against the Far Eastern Economic Review,” a spokeswoman from Dow Jones said in a statement.

“We will seek to have the court apply the public interest privilege, which is available in most other Commonwealth countries, and reverse the decision from the court below,” she said.

Dow Jones & Co is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. The damages for the lawsuit, the latest in a string of legal actions that Singapore’s political leaders have taken against foreign media, have not been decided.

Leaders in the Southeast Asian country say the lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputations, but critics say they are used to cripple opposition groups.

The lawsuit arose over a story the magazine published about Chee Soon Juan, a prominent Singapore opposition politician.

The story, entitled “Singapore’s Martyr: Chee Soon Juan“, criticised the government’s handling of a pay-and-perks scandal at the country’s largest charity.

Singapore leaders have in the past sued and won damages, or won out-of-court settlements, from opposition politicians and foreign media including the Economist, International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg.