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Court finds magazine, editor guilty of defaming prime minister and his father

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Singapore's High Court has found the "Far Eastern Economic Review" (FEER) and its editor, Hugo Restall, guilty of defaming Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong and his father, Lee Kuan Yew, media reports said.

According to BBC online, Justice Woo Bih Li had reached his conclusion of defamation by summary judgement, as requested by the Lees.

In such a judgement, the court makes a ruling without the case going to trial, as it agrees with the applicant that the defence arguments are baseless, the "Straits Times" newspaper said.

Damages are to be assessed later. FEER has a month in which to lodge an appeal.

The case was about an article in FEER in 2006, based on an interview with Singapore politician Chee Soon Juan. The "Straits Times" said that the article in question was "calculated to disparage both leaders by suggesting they were corrupt and unfit for office, and would sue and suppress those who questioned them as the questions would expose their corruption".

The article which had aroused the Lees' anger was entitled "Singapore's 'Martyr,' Chee Soon Juan". It described the Singapore Democratic Party secretary general's battle against the ruling People's Action Party and its leaders.

Although the FEER had argued that the article was based on facts and fair comment, and was a neutral report, Justice Woo said the newspaper's defences failed or did not apply in Singapore, according to the "Straits Times".

The judge said there was no doubt the defamatory words in the article referred to the two Singapore leaders, and that other references that linked the government to Singapore's National Kidney Foundation and its disgraced director T.T. Durai amounted to "defamation by implication".

Singaporean leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages in defamation cases against critics and foreign publications. They said these are necessary to protect their reputations from unfounded attacks.

The city state has also banned several foreign publications from distributing their product in Singapore, and have required those that do distribute there to promise to abide by stringent media rules.

Updates the "Far Eastern Economic Review" and Restall cases: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/83947

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