Reporters without Borders writes to PM Lee to protest against his use of defamat
Reporters without Borders writes to PM Lee to protest against his use of defamation lawsuits to silence the foreign media
Written by Our Correspondent
As expected, the latest defamation lawsuit won successfully by Singapore leaders against the foreign media, this time the International Herald Tribune, has attracted worldwide condemnation and opporborium with international NGO Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Jean-François Julliard writing an open letter to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to protest against his litigious tendencies. (read letter here)
Two days ago, the Singapore High Court fined International Herald Tribune (IHT) an astonishing $160,000 for defaming three Singapore leaders ?Lee Hsien Loong, Goh Chok Tong and Lee Kuan Yew in an article published a month ago.
The libellous article contained only one sentence about Singapore stating the fact that PM Lee is the son of MM Lee:
"The list of Asian countries with governments headed by the offspring or spouses of former leaders is striking: Pakistan has Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, herself the daughter of the executed former leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bangladesh has Sheikh Hasina, daughter of the murdered first prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman . In Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak is the son of the second prime minister, Abdul Razak. Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kuan Yew's son. In Kim Il-sung's son Kim Jong-il commands party, army and country and waiting in the wings is his son Kim Jong-un."
Most tellingly, no other Asian leaders mentioned in the above paragraph has found it necessary to sue IHT including North Korea dictator Kim Jong IL.
In the lengthy letter, Mr Jean-François Julliard critcized the Singapore judicial system as being "compliant":
"A foreign news organisation has yet again been forced to apologise to you and your father and pay you a large sum of money for publishing an article you did not like. This time it is the New York Times Co. that is a victim of this double punishment because of a compliant judicial system that always rules in favour of you and your family in all the lawsuits you bring against foreign news media."
He also lashed out at the harrassment which PM Lee and his father have "practiced" for years against the foreign news media:
"Reporters Without Borders condemns the judicial harassment which you and your father have practiced for years in order to prevent foreign news media from taking too close an interest in how you run your country. It does serious and lasting harm to press freedom in Singapore."
The letter reminds PM Lee why the Singapore media was ranked a pathetic 133rd out of 175 countries in terms of press freedom last year:
"In response to the publication of the Reporters Without Borders 2009 press freedom index, in which Singapore was ranked 133rd out of 175 countries, your law minister, K. Shanmugam, described it as "absurd" and "disconnected from reality." Unfortunately, the facts show that we are right."
Mr Jean-François Julliard ended his rather caustic letter by imploring PM Lee to take 8 measures urgently including transferring the money that his family has obtained in damages from foreign and Singaporean news media to a support fund for imprisoned journalists that Reporters Without Borders proposes to set up.
It is highly unlikely that PM Lee will accede to any of the demands put forth by Mr Jean-François Julliard who should consider himself lucky if he is not sued by the Attorney-General Chambers for insulting the "holier than thou" Singapore judiciary.