CPJ press freedom report 2008

Committee to Protect Journalists


• Blogger Gopalan Nair, a former Singapore citizen who obtained U.S. citizenship in 2005, was sentenced to three months in jail on September 18. He was found guilty on charges of insulting two judges. Nair was accused of insulting the judge presiding over a libel case filed by Singapore’s founding leader Lee Kuan Yew and his son, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in comments published in his blog, Singapore Dissident. Nair was in Singapore to attend a hearing to determine damages owed to the Lees in the libel case, which was sparked by a 2006 story in The New Democrat newspaper.

• A High Court judge in Singapore ruled in September that the Far Eastern Economic Review defamed Singapore’s leaders in a 2006 article, according to international news reports.  Justice Woo Bih Li decided the case in a summary judgment, dismissing the magazine’s arguments that the article constituted fair comment, according to the BBC. The case stemmed from an August 2006 piece that described one of the country’s prominent opposition leaders and cited a lack of governmental transparency.  Damages had not been awarded in late year. The ruling Lee family has made a practice of filing defamation suits and extracting damages or settlements from publications such as the London-based Economist magazine, the U.S. financial news service Bloomberg, and The International Herald Tribune, according to CPJ research.

• The High Court found the Asian Wall Street Journal and two of its editors in contempt for publishing editorials and a letter that allegedly damaged the reputation of the judicial system. In its November ruling, the court fined the newspaper 25,000 Singapore dollars (US$16,500). The two editorials, published in June and July, questioned the judiciary’s independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the ruling People’s Action Party. The letter was written by Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.