Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam in his response during his ministerial statement regarding the sentencing of accused in City Harvest Church (CHC) case in parliament on Tuesday, said that the Attorney General’s Chambers is investigating a doctored image of a newspaper headline as a possible case of contempt of court.
“(The perpetrators made it) look as if a mass-circulation newspaper had done so, probably to give more credit to the headline. The suggestion from the faked title, is that the PAP MP was responsible for an unfair, unjust outcome. And the courts had let off the defendants lightly because of him,” he said.
“AGC’s view is that this is a case of contempt, by scandalising the courts,” Mr Shanmugam said, stressing that the perpetrators will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Edwin Tong represented City Harvest Church founder and Senior Pastor Kong Hee, who was among six former church leaders convicted and jailed for misappropriation of church funds. Kong had his prison sentence reduced to three years and six months from eight years after the Court of Appeal upheld the decision by the High Court.
He said that launching an attack on Mr Tong is part of a mob mentality to hound the lawyers, noting, “The fake headline (seeks) to intimidate (lawyers) into not acting in cases which the mob disapproves of. It’s quite shameful. I cannot see how any reasonable person will justify such faking as a legitimate expression of free speech. I have asked the police to take a serious view of those who scandalise the courts.”
In a statement on Monday night, the AGC said it has written to the Facebook user who created the doctored image, noting, “Contempt of court in its various forms harms the proper administration of justice in Singapore. AGC will take firm action against contempt of court, including institution of committal proceedings in appropriate instances.”
Following that, Mr Neo Aik Chau was identified as the Facebook user when he posted his public apology on Tuesday (6 February)
Mr Neo’s doctored image resembled the front page of Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao, which originally titled “Outdated law ‘saved’ them (the accused)” in Mandarin. In the edited image, it said, “PAP lawyer ‘saved’ them (the accused)”.
The post was posted at least twice on a public 4,548-member Facebook group with a Chinese name that means “Policy Discussion Forum” and were shared at least 23 times.
Mr Neo in his apology on his Facebook account, writing in Mandarin, “I was wrong! Sorry! I didn’t mean it! All was for fairness and justice! Really wrong! I just spoke my mind without thinking too much. Sorry! I swear not to post anything like this! Forgive me!”
Shin Min Daily News, a Chinese newspaper on Tuesday that Mr Neo said he was intrigued by coffee-shop chatter over the City Harvest verdict. “I was feeling inspired. Using a mobile application, I wrote a new headline,” he told the newspaper. “I’d only meant to put it on the Facebook group as a talking point, and did not have malicious intent. I didn’t think it would be reposted.”