Singapore: ICJ observes the defamation case of blogger Roy Ngearng

The three-day hearing on the assessment of damages on the civil defamation case against blogger Roy Ngerng was concluded today in Singapore. The Supreme Court will issue its decision at a later date.

A representative of the ICJ observed the hearing that took place from 1 to 3 July 2015. The ICJ considers the judge, Justice Lee Seiu Kin, to have conducted himself independently and impartially with regard to the procedural aspects of the hearing.

During the first day, Prime Minister Lee himself took to the witness stand and was cross-examined by Roy Ngerng.

Prime Minister Lee brought this action against Roy Ngerng claiming that the blogger suggested in his blog post that the Prime Minister was guilty of criminal misappropriation of the Central Provident Fund (CPF), the social security savings plan of the citizens of Singapore.

Roy Ngerng maintains a blog called The Heart Truths, where he comments on pressing social issues. Many of the posts on his blog advocate for more transparency in the management of the CPF.

Last year, the High Court ordered Roy Ngerng to pay Prime Minister Lee SG$29,000 (approximately US$22,300) for the legal fees and related expenses incurred up to the conclusion of the application for summary judgment.

In June, the ICJ produced a legal opinion (download text below) which was submitted to the court in support of certain aspects of the defendant’s position.

The brief drew attention to relevant international law and standards.

It underscored, among other things, that the exercise of freedom of expression is essential to enable the work of human rights defenders to carry out their work.

It also noted the particular standards applying to defamation cases involving public offices, particularly that those exercising the highest political authority such as heads of states may legitimately be subjected to criticism and challenges.

It also emphasized that damages awarded that are disproportionate to the harm caused could serve to create a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Singapore.

At the end of the hearing, the court directed the parties to file written submissions to address issues that were raised during the three-day hearing by 30 August 2015.

Singapore-RoyNgerng-Advocacy-LegalSubmission-2015-ENG (download the legal opinion)


Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia,

email: emerlynne.gil(a) or mobile: +668 4092 3575

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