Monday, March 16, 2009

Singapore charges WSJ editor with contempt

Associated Press

Singapore is charging a senior editor of the Wall Street Journal with contempt of court for three articles last year about the city-state's judiciary, the Straits Times reported Saturday.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang approved an application by the attorney general's office to start proceedings against Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, the newspaper said, citing court documents.

The attorney general claims the articles, which appeared in the editorials and opinion section of the Journal's Asia edition, "contained passages that scandalize the Singapore judiciary," the paper said.

The Journal is published by Dow Jones & Co, which is owned by News Corp. Dow Jones' spokesman in Asia, Joe Spitzer, did not immediately respond to a message on his voicemail seeking comment.

Tay found the Journal in contempt of court in November and fined it 25,000 Singapore dollars ($16,250) for publishing the same articles.

At that time, Attorney General Walter Woon argued that editorials published in June and July questioned the judiciary's independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the ruling People's Action Party. Not meting out punishment in the case would undermine the country's rule of law, the court said.

Woon also objected to a letter to the editor written by Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

Singapore's leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in recent years for alleged defamation, winning damages against Bloomberg, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune.

Human Rights Watch called on Singapore last year to stop using defamation lawsuits to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians, citing the High Court's decision in October to order Chee and his party to pay $416,000 to Lee and his father, Lee Kuan Yew, in damages from a 2006 case.

Government leaders justify suing political opponents, saying it is necessary to defend their personal and professional reputations since it bears on their ability to govern properly and command respect from the public.

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