(Updates with FEER comment)
SINGAPORE, Sept 24 Singapore's High Court has
ruled that the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) has defamed
the city-state's two most powerful leaders, a court document
showed on Wednesday.
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 and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew,
after defaming them in an article published in 2006.
Dow Jones & Co is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp
The damages for the lawsuit, the latest in a string of
legal action Singapore's political leaders have taken against
foreign media, will be decided at a later date, the court
The Lees sued the magazine and its editor Hugo Restall last
year over an article on Chee Soon Juan, a prominent Singapore
The August 2006 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, the
National Kidney Foundation (NKF). The charity's former head
T.T. Durai has since been jailed.
"We are disappointed with the decision," Restall told
Reuters, adding the magazine is considering an appeal.
"It is notable that the court has determined that the
public interest privilege that is available in the United
Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, is not applicable in
Singapore," he said.
The magazine had cited fair comment in its defence, saying
the article was of public interest, and that the media had a
duty to publish it because the public had a right to know.
But the judge said in the judgment that if such a defence
holds, "a person could continue to make defamatory remarks
about a person who enjoys the highest of reputations without
being liable" in Singapore.
Dow Jones is also facing contempt proceedings brought
against it by Singapore's attorney general for printing
editorials that "impugn the impartiality, integrity and
independence of the Singapore judiciary" in the Asian edition
of its Wall Street Journal.
Singapore leaders have sued and won damages in the past
from foreign media groups including the Economist,
International Herald Tribune and Bloomberg. They say the
lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputations, but
critics say they are used to crush opposition.
(Reporting by Koh Gui Qing and Neil Chatterjee; Editing by