AGC starts committal proceedings against Li Shengwu for contempt of court

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has filed an application in the High Court for leave to commence committal proceedings against Mr Li Shengwu for contempt of court in connection with the publication of a Facebook post made by Mr Li.

In a statement by AGC on Friday, it highlighted the earlier post that Mr Li had posted on 15 July,

AGC noted that Mr Li had written the text as quoted below,

“If you’ve been watching the latest political crisis in Singapore from a distance, but would like a summary, this is a good one. (Keep in mind, of course, that the Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/opinion/04pubed.html)” (“the Post”).

AGC further noted that the facebook post contained a link to an April 2010 editorial published by the New York Times, entitled “Censored in Singapore”.

It claims that Mr Li’s Post was republished widely in Singapore after it was posted and that it issued a letter of warning to Mr Li about the post on 21 July 2017.

In that letter, AGC had asked that Mr Li purge the contempt, by doing the following by 5 pm on 28 July 2017:
(a) delete and remove the Post from his Facebook page and any other social/online media and other documents in his possession, custody or control; and
(b)issue and post prominently a written apology and undertaking in the terms stated in the AGC’s letter on his Facebook page.

A copy of AGC’s letter dated 21 July 2017 can be seen in the attached Annex A at the end of the article.

AGC states that Mr Li wrote back to request an extension of time till 5 pm on 4 August 2017 to respond to its letter on 27 July 2017 and had agreed to Mr Li’s request on the same day.

At 12pm on Friday, Mr Li posted a clarification on his Facebook page, stating that it should be evident that his post was not an attack on Singapore judiciary if his private post was to be read in context.

He wrote that he had intended to convey that the international media were restricted in their ability to report on the recent crisis, due to the litigious nature of the Singapore government, and the different legal rules with respect to press freedom in Singapore as compared to countries such as the United States. There is also flexibility in Singapore’s defamation laws – they just have different boundaries from the defamation laws in other jurisdictions. The government makes use of these legal rules to restrict unfavourable reporting.

He further emphasize that it is not his intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice and that any criticism he had made is of the Singapore government’s litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press. To avoid any misunderstanding of my original private post, he has since amended the post so as to clarify his meaning.

AGC noting that as Mr Li has failed to purge the contempt and to apologise by the extended deadline, it went ahead to file an application for leave in the High Court to commence committal proceedings for contempt against him.