Mindef successfully applies under Protection From Harassment Act against Dr Ting, TOC

state court entranceDistrict Judge Bala Reddy today granted the application by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) against Dr Ting Choon Ming and The Online Citizen.

In his judgement, Judge Reddy said that he was “satisfied on the falsity of the statements” made by Dr Ting in a video interview TOC’s report “Inventor forced by Mindef to close company over patent rights”, published on 15 January 2015.

In the report, Dr Ting recounted the sequence of events which transpired between his company, MobileStats Pte Ltd and MINDEF. He alleged that MINDEF had infringed his patent for “Mobile First Aid Post” and had the patent revoked through a ‘war of attrition’ in the courts.

In response, MINDEF disputed Dr Ting’s claims with its own statement of facts published on cyberpioneer’s facebook fanpage and sent a letter of demand to Dr Ting and TOC on 28 January via the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) threatening to use the POHA.

Dr Ting and TOC declined to accede to the AGC’s demands set out by the letter, which then led to MINDEF to proceed with legal actions against Dr Ting and TOC on 11 February via the use of POHA to seek protection of harassment from the two.

“Having reviewed all the evidence before me,” wrote Judge Bala in his judgement statement, “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the statements complained of by the Applicant (MINDEF) are false and it is just and equitable that in the circumstances to grant the prayers in the amended application for both the orders under section 15 of POHA.”

Judge Reddy also said that “Section 15 of POHA is intended to allow the subject of a falsehood to have the truth published and the court is given a wide discretion to consider such notification as it thinks necessary to bring attention to the falsehood and the true facts.”

In response to the judgement, TOC issued the following statement:

“We are surprised and disappointed at the outcome of this case. Members of the public who had hoped the Protection from Harassment Act would protect the weak would be indignant that it can be used by the government in this manner. This is a law that was intended to protect the weak, not wielded by a Ministry well-resourced to take care of itself online. We have taken this case on as a point of principle and fully intend to appeal the judgement, as this has serious implications on freedom of expression.”

Dr Ting also expressed his interest to contest the verdict. “This is a judgment that stretches the reach of the Harassment Act beyond what it was clearly intended to cover. We fully intend to appeal, it is an issue of public interest.”

In lieu of the success of the appeal, amendments to the original article with Dr Ting had been made, which contains the statement requested by MINDEF.

The video has also since been amended with 30 seconds of MINDEF’s statement as ordered in the judgement.

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