The decision by the Prime Minister of Singapore, who is also the chairman of one of the world's largest sovereign fund, to sue blogger, Sexispider of The Heart Truths, has raised the argument of the lack of the right of free speech. However, if you were to read the offending article, it seemed that this Sexispider did make himself an open target.
Sexispider, or otherwise known as Roy Ngern, was served papers by the Prime Minister's lawyers for defamation. The entire papers can be found at http://thehearttruths.com/2014/05/19/i-have-just-been-sued-by-the-singapore-prime-minister-lee-hsien-loong/.
The main issue which the PM with the offensive articles was of Roy linking the role of the PM managing the CPF as similar to that of City Harvest Church. The founder for City Harvest and other five accused is on trial of misusing the church's fund.
As such, I am not surprised that the PM has taken to legal means for Roy to take down the offensive article. You have the Singapore government taking the founder and five other accused for misusing funds. Openly saying that that of the PM acting similarly to the church founder and the other five accused without any prove is grounds for defamation.
Defamatory words published over the internet would constitute libel, if the 3 elements described below are present.
Firstly, the statement in question must be defamatory. It is defamatory if it lowers the victim in the estimation of right-thinking members of society, causes the victim to be shunned or avoided, or exposes the victim to hatred, contempt or ridicule. For example, if a blogger publishes a post accusing you of being a thief, or a philanderer, the post would be defamatory because it harms your reputation, causing you to be exposed to contempt.In addition, a statement is defamatory if the inferential meaning alone defames, as opposed to the literal meaning. For example, in 1998, Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong successfully sued Mr Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam, when the latter made a loaded statement without directly accusing the former of wrongdoing. Therefore, if a blog post impliedly accuses you of wrongdoing, by claiming, truthfully or otherwise, that you were being investigated by police for crimes, you may have a case against the blogger of the post.
Secondly, the statement in question must refer to the victim. For example, a blog accusing one of being a dishonest person, referring to the victim by your name, or posting a photograph of the victim, would constitute reference. The crux is whether the victim can be identified by the words or pictures in the statement. This means that if a blog post accuses an organisation of wrongdoing, and a reasonable person can relate the imputation of dishonesty to you, a member of that organisation, reference would be found. Careless words or inadequate research, leading to mistaken identities, is no defence to the tort of defamation.
Thirdly, the statement in question must be published, or communicated to a third party.The Heart Truth blog post that is in question definitely meet these three elements constituting libel. There are two ways out for the blog, apologise and take the blog post, or prove that his blog post is the truth with proper evidence. The latter is definitely the high road with obstacles so large that there will be no ways round it but through it.
The reason for me writing this blog is to highlight to bloggers that yes, while you have the power of the internets in your hands, you also need to understand media law to protect yourself so that you continue to blog another day.