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Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned by a lawsuit launched by ex prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his son, the current prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, against the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER).
Both men claim to have been libeled in an article written by editor Hugo Restall in the July/August issue about an opposition leader Chee Soon Juan, calling him the Singapore’s “martyr” because of the number of lawsuits that have been taken out against him.
“As the World Bank and IMF summit opens in Singapore, it is shocking to see the country’s leaders attempting to ruin a respected magazine and its editor simply for talking about an opposition figure,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“The two international bodies could hardly have made a worse choice of country in which to hold an international conference,” it pointed out. “Press freedom should be one of the key elements of an open and dynamic economy.”
It called on World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz and IMF head Rodrigo de Rato to intervene with the Singapore authorities to have the cases dropped.
It was learned on 14 September 2006, that four defamation suits had been lodged, on 22 August, against editor, Hugo Restall, and the publisher of the Far Eastern Economic Review, produced in Hong Kong by the Review Publishing Company Ltd. Hugo Restall and the publisher have until 25 September to appear before Singapore’s High Court.
The Far Eastern Economic Review has no staff or assets in Singapore, which could apparently make it problematic for the Singapore government to secure damages. For this reason the authorities, in August, ordered the FEER to comply with Section 23 of the law on newspapers and the written press. Under threat of being banned from selling in Singapore, the monthly had to appoint a legal representative in the country and put down a deposit of 200,000 Singapore dollars (100,000 euros), before 11 September.
On 4 August, Reporters Without Borders condemned injunctions taken out by the Singapore government against the Far Eastern Economic Review, which is owned by the Dow Jones group, and four other foreign newspapers.
Previously, the authorities had written to FEER calling on it to apologise, pay damages and to remove the article from its website. The management had replied that this was not possible.
Reporters Without Borders placed Singapore 140th out of 167 countries in its worldwide press freedom index in 2005.
Asia – Pacific Desk
Reporters Sans Frontières