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Singapore court holds Wall St. Journal in contempt for defamation

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  1. Libel and Privacy
The Wall Street Journal Asia was held in contempt of court and fined about $16,000 by the high court in…

The Wall Street Journal Asia was held in contempt of court and fined about $16,000 by the high court in Singapore for two editorials and a letter to the editor that criticized the country’s judiciary.

In Tuesday’s ruling, Justice Tay Yong Kwang held that the editorials and letter damaged the reputation of Singapore because they questioned the judiciary’s independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the ruling People’s Action Party, The Journal and the Brunei Times reported on Wednesday. The letter to the editor was written by Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

Justice Tay ruled that the editorials and the letter “contained insinuations of bias, lack of impartiality and lack of independence and implied that the judiciary is subservient to Lee and/or the PAP and is a tool for silencing political dissent.” Additionally, he wrote, “There can be no doubt that allegations of the nature mentioned above would immediately cast doubts on the judiciary in Singapore and undermine public confidence,” The Journal reported.

Last month, Human Rights Watch called on Singapore to stop using defamation lawsuits to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians.

A spokesman for Journal parent Dow Jones defended the newspaper.

The newspaper "has not engaged in a ‘campaign’ of any sort against the Singapore judiciary,” the spokesman told The Journal. “We will in the future continue to defend the right of The Wall Street Journal Asia to report and comment on matters of international importance, including matters concerning Singapore.”