Blogger uses crowdfunding to fight Singapore PM's defamation suit

  • AFP, Singapore
  • Updated: Jun 02, 2014 20:01 IST

A Singaporean blogger sued for damages by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Monday that he had successfully raised fees for his legal defence in just four days through crowd-funding.

Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, a government health worker who posts comments on social issues, said 1,104 people had so far contributed more than Sg$72,000 ($55,700), exceeding his target of Sg$70,000 when he launched the campaign Friday.

Ngerng published the transaction history of his bank account on his crowdfunding platform. Many of the donors registered comments criticising Lee and opposing the use of libel suits to silence government critics.

Singapore officials have long used defamation suits against printed publications to defend their reputations.

Ngerng was the first online critic brought to court by a Singaporean leader.

"Donations were mostly of small denominations, and ranged from one cent to two thousand dollars," Ngerng, 33, told AFP.

"I think it reflects the people's frustrations with the current situation," added Ngerng, author of a blog called "The Heart Truths".

Lee filed the defamation suit on Thursday in the High Court, where the typical minimum value of claims for damages is Sg$250,000.

The prime minister alleged that a May 15 post by Ngerng contained statements accusing him of "criminal misappropriation" of public funds.

Lee had earlier rejected an apology and dismissed as "derisory" a compensation offer of Sg$5,000 from Ngerng. The court will have the final say on the amount to be awarded.

A pre-trial conference has been set for July 4.

Lee's lawyer said the post had suggested that the prime minister, who is the chairman of state investment agency GIC, "is guilty of criminal misappropriation of the monies paid by Singaporeans to the Central Provident Fund (CPF)."

GIC manages more than $100 billion of the city-state's foreign reserves. The CPF is the state pension fund.

Ngerng said Monday that for now, he would not "actively solicit for more funds as the target we set has been reached" but indicated he may seek help paying any damages awarded to Lee.


'David versus Goliath'
Eugene Tan, an associate law professor at the Singapore Management University, said the lawsuit has a "David versus Goliath ring to it".

"There is a sense that the people who have contributed either identify with his cause or feel that the questions regarding the CPF Ngerng has raised is worth some support," he told AFP.

Local media is tightly controlled, leaving independent bloggers as the strongest critics of the long-ruling People's Action Party.

Calvin Soh, an advertising industry entrepreneur, said Lee's defamation suit against Ngerng was a "PR disaster" for the ruling party.

"It's not just the sum; crowdfunding shows you market size," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"What if you have turned Roy into a symbol of the ordinary guy being bullied because you've pushed too hard?"

But commentators on pro-government blogs questioned why people are donating to someone accused of spreading falsehoods.

Media firms like Bloomberg, The Economist and the Financial Times have previously paid damages and apologised to Singapore leaders including Lee and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, for publishing articles found to be defamatory.

International human rights groups have accused Singapore leaders of using financially ruinous libel actions to silence critics and political opponents.

The Lees and other ruling party leaders say the lawsuits are necessary to protect their reputations from unfounded attacks.

From Around the Web
Sponsored by Revcontent

also read

Trump’s NATO comments show ‘lack of preparedness’: Obama
Show comments

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Chrome and Ad BlockPlus users

1.Press the ‘ABP’ icon in your toolbar at top right of this page

2. Click on ‘Enabled on this site’; this should now change to ‘Disabled on this site’


chrome



For Chrome and Ad Block users

1.Press the ‘AdBlock’ icon in your toolbar

2.Select the option ‘Don’t run on pages on this domain’ and then click ‘exclude’ on the pop up


chrome

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Mozilla and AdBlock Plus (ABP) users

1.Press the ‘ABP’ icon in your toolbar

2.Select the option ‘Disable on hindustantimes.com’


chrome

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Internet Explorer and AdBlock Plus users

1.Press the ‘AdBlock Plus’ icon in your status bar at the bottom of the screen

2.Select the option ‘Disable on hindustantimes.com’


chrome

Steps to disable Ad Blocker on your browser


In order to serve content on our website, we rely on advertising revenue which helps us to ensure that we continue to serve high quality unbiased journalism. From our end, we will aim to show clean and unobtrusive ads to provide you with a great browsing experience.

Request to please follow the steps below and once done, please refresh your page.


For Safari and AdBlock users

1.Press the ‘AdBlock’ icon in your toolbar

2.Select the option ‘Don't run pages on this domain’ and then click 'exclude'


chrome