Court Action Discontinued as Parties Arrive at Agreement
Han Hui Hui, the 21-year old Singaporean student blogger who was threatened with a defamation suit by the Council for Private Education [“CPE”], has agreed not to proceed with her challenge in Court against the statutory board. The CPE has agreed not to take any action against Ms Han for defamation.
Acting for Ms Han, lawyer Mr M Ravi believes the matter has come to a happy outcome for his young client. “I am so proud of Ms Han’s conviction. She has not shied away from a fight and through her persistence and activism, Ms Han has raised awareness on this issue – Singaporeans should have a reasonable expectation that they will not be sued for defamation when they question or criticize a public authority.”
Through her challenge, Ms Han was asserting in the Singapore Court what is known as the “Derbyshire Principle”: plainly, that individuals should be free to criticise government institutions and their agencies without fear of being sued for defamation. The principle has been adopted widely in the Courts, beginning in the United Kingdom (Derbyshire Town, for which it takes its name) and following in Canada, Australia, India, South Africa and Malaysia. In the United States, this principle has stood for nearly a century and its purpose is to allow free and fair criticism of public institutions by the citizens who both fund them with their tax dollars and are governed by them.
“I hope that Parliament will act soon to amend the Defamation Act to ensure that government agencies do not continue to use the tax-payers’ dollars to fund actions against their own citizens in Court. The government – particularly in Singapore where the mainstream media is state-controlled – has ample resources and opportunity to respond to any inquiry or criticism raised by the public without resorting to punitive civil action against private individuals” states Mr Ravi.