Lawyer and politician, Lim Tean has come out with a video to educate the Singapore public about defamation, specifically what someone can or cannot say online based on the law.
The 15-minute video posted on Facebook shows Lim Tean guiding an animated character called Winston on how he can vent his frustrations online without putting himself at risk of breaking Singapore’s defamation laws.
He starts of by saying, ‘I believe in free speech and I advocate strongly for free speech in Singapore. We have some of the most draconian defamation laws for a first world nation”. He goes on to explain that defamation was a historical tool used to stifle criticism of the rich and powerful in Britain. Naturally, as a former British colony, Singapore inherited these laws.
Lim Tean then says ”the PAP government has never reformed the law to take into account the modern word”.
With donations from Singaporeans, Lim Tean says he’s made the video to help Singaporeans navigate the laws safely. “Whilst the current laws used by the rich and powerful indeed curtail many of our free expressions, there absolutely are many things you are allowed to say and many ways you may express your opinions”, he says.
The next segment follow Lim Tean interacting with Wiston the cartoon who appears to have some strong feelings about the 30% water hike. Lim Tean helps him rethink posting an aggressive social media post that is defamatory.
He presents three rules that people should follow to express their opinions without falling foul of the law. Before that though, he present a disclaimer to say that he is only guiding people through some but not all aspects of the law and that the video is not a definitive guide.
Lim Tean’s 3 Rules to avoid being charged with defamation are:
- Do not accuse anyone of anything that you cannot prove, this includes not insinuating a person of wrong doing by hinting that the person’s character is similar to people of bad repute.
- You cannot call people names and attack them personally. However, you are free to express what you feel, so use terms such as ‘I think, I feel, to me it seems, etc’ about the policies or the work they have done.
- Do not post in a hurry. Reread your posts a few times before hitting send.
Lim Tean then adds that if you do somehow break the defamation laws, you need not be too worried. He said, “don’t worry, you won’t be hauled secretly off the streets and be thrown into jail”. That’s reassuring.
He added that someone who has posted something defamatory “will receive a letter called a Notice of Demand asking for an apology and a retraction and damages for loss of reputation” and you will need to respond.
Lim Tean ends the video by calling for people to support those who are pushing for changes that want to see. He added, “complaining is only a small part. If you stay in complaining mode, you won’t become an agent of change that Singapore needs”.
The last 8 minutes or so of the video is simply the entire Defamation Law in Singapore presented in a rolling credits style.
With the many high profile defamation cases in Singapore courts right now and the upcoming general elections, this video couldn’t have come at a better time.
You can watch the full video here: