Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s act of suing blogger Leong Sze Hian for defamation over the latter’s sharing of a Facebook post is akin to suing an “auntie, who fell prey to a scammer, for scam because she unknowingly roped in her friends on that “good deal” she found”, said Singapore Democratic Party member Khung Wai Yeen.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (4 Nov), Mr Khung also said: “The fact that an innocent sharing of post on Facebook without adding any commentaries, is open for legal action, is unsettling.”
He added that while he found the content in the original post — which was posted on Malaysian website TheCoverage.my — “sensational,” as it “accused the PM of wrongdoing in the 1MDB case,” he also believed that the sensational nature of the post was what compelled certain people to share it “without verifying its contents”.
That being said, Mr Khung said that he does not, “for a minute”, believe in the authenticity of the content in the original post, as he believes that “it came from an unsatisfactory source”, namely the controversy-ridden States Times Review.
He further highlighted that the content in the offending post has also been debunked by sociopolitical website Sarawak Report — headed by British investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle-Brown, and thus argued that it is “natural that PM Lee should commence legal action against the writer of the content.”
However, Mr Khung suggested that a better cause of action, in comparison to filing legal action against those involved in disseminating such posts, would be to “issue a statement to clarify the “fake news” and public concerns if any (clarification done through PMO).”
He argued that “choosing to sue other users who simply shared the article, who may not have a means to verify its authenticity, is unacceptable.
“It is akin to suing the auntie, who fell prey to a scammer, for scam because she unknowingly roped in her friends on that “good deal” she found,” said Mr Khung.
“I feel that as a politician, especially as a leader of a country, PM Lee should understand and accept that there are bound to be people who hate his guts and will create fake stories to discredit him. All public figures will encounter that. So the appropriate response is to seek legal recourse with the fake content creator, and to educate the public to take information on the Internet with a pinch of salt.
“As a last point, I feel that we are at this state where fake news is prevalent partly due to tight control of traditional media by the authorities. It created the feeling that the public can’t trust our papers to report unbiased truth, hence people readily consume contents from non-traditional media,” concluded Mr Khung.
Prior to the offending shared post being taken down by Mr Leong upon receiving an order from the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) to do so within six hours of receiving the authority’s letter of demand on 10 Nov, TOC observed that Mr Leong had merely shared the article on his Facebook Timeline without any commentary on 7 Nov, and that other netizens, upon investigation, were not served with any letter of demand despite having shared the same article.
Press Secretary to the Prime Minister Chang Li Lin confirmed that PM Lee has commenced legal proceedings against Mr Leong for defamation, and said that PM Lee’s lawyers have taken the matter into their hands.
“Mr Lee reserves the right to take legal action against other parties who similarly defame him,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mr Leong had posted on his Facebook profile a photograph of the legal papers he was served with on Wednesday (5 Dec):
Commenters have reacted in shock and dismay to the post, condemning the legal action against Mr Leong: