Singapore PM wins defamation case against blogger

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks during a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur April 7, 2014. REUTERS/Samsul Said

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong won a High Court defamation case against a blogger on Friday, the first time the city-state’s leader has sued an online critic.

Roy Ngerng, 33, was sued for his blog post in May when he was alleged to have implicated Lee in impropriety in connection with how funds in Singapore’s mandatory retirement savings scheme, the Central Provident Fund(CPF), are managed.

Singapore’s leaders have in the past sued or settled out of court with several foreign media publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and The Economist for alleged defamatory remarks but this is the first time a blogger has faced such action.

High Court judge Lee Seiu Kin ordered Ngerng was not allowed to publish or disseminate such claims in the future, or any words and images to the same effect.

Damages will be assessed at a later date.

“I think it is a sad commentary when the elected leader of a country can’t take criticism from its citizens about issues related to public policy,” said Phil Robertson, the Bangkok-based deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

Singapore’s government has been grappling with how to regulate internet content and last year introduced new restrictions on news websites.

In a media statement, Ngerng’s lawyers said they were studying the judgment “very carefully and will decide the next course of action in due course”.

Reporting by Theodora D’cruz, Rujun Shen; and Rachel Armstrong