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Appeals court upholds ruling against magazine, editor

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Singapore Appeals Court upheld on 7 October 2009 an earlier ruling that the "Far Eastern Economic Review" magazine and its editor Hugo Restall had defamed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, media reports said.

Online news site "Asia Sentinel" reported that in a 204-page decision, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, Appellate Justice Andrew Pheng Boon Keong and Judge Judith Prakash agreed with the Singapore High Court's ruling in September 2008 that the Lees had been defamed in a 2006 interview with Chee Soon Juan, secretary-general of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party. Damages will be assessed later, according to the "Wall Street Journal".

Singapore's High Court handled the case against FEER by summary judgment, as requested by the Lees. In this Singaporean judicial mechanism, the court makes a ruling without the case going to trial. Asia Sentinel noted that "Being charged in the Singapore courts is tantamount to being convicted".

Singaporean leaders have won hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages in defamation cases against critics and foreign publications.

Major publications in Asia which had been sued by high-ranking government officials include the "International Herald Tribune", the "Financial Times", "Time" magazine, the "Economist", and the now-defunct "AsiaWeek".

The 63-year-old FEER will close down in December 2009, according to an announcement in September made by its parent company, Dow Jones and Co., citing readership and advertising revenue losses.

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