IN A rare case of its kind here, a defamation lawsuit over a blog post is headed for the courtroom. Former teacher Janet Wong is suing Ms Jayne Goh [picture left] for alleging online that she had been sacked as a teacher and lost her retirement benefits from the education authorities because of corruption.
Ms Wong, who filed her claim with the courts three weeks ago, is saying the allegations that she accepted bribes from the guardians of children applying for places in her former secondary school are "baseless and false".
She had wanted Ms Goh, an education consultant, to sign and publish a prepared apology "prominently" on the latter's blog as well as to compensate her and bear all costs arising from the matter.
But the defendant, who is also the founder and president of the Association of Bloggers (Singapore), is not backing down. In filing her defence on Friday, Ms Goh outlined the experience she and her husband had in trying to register three foreign students at the plaintiff's former school. Each time, they were told the students had failed the placement test but could be admitted if they donated $3,000 to the school, according to Ms Goh's court documents.
Her lawyer, Mr Kang Gim Swee of Kang Associates, said her words alleging that the plaintiff "abused her office and authority" and implying that the Ministry of Education dealt with her "leniently" were "fair comments on a matter of public interest".
Ms Wong, though, is claiming that the blog, posted on or around Dec 9, 2008, was calculated to "disparage her in her profession and calling".
As a result, her character and reputation has been "gravely injured", and the article has caused her "distress and embarrassment".
Such lawsuits over blogs are rare here, even though threats of legal action have increased, said lawyers. People are more aware of their rights, but legal costs may well outweigh the damages awarded, said Harry Elias Partnership consultant Doris Chia. Alicia Wong