In regards to the defamation suit made against veteran blogger and human rights defender Leong Sze Hian by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Front Line Defenders (FLD) took a stand and said that it strongly condemns the action.
Mentioning this in its website, the human rights organisation said that it believes “that the disproportionate legal action being taken against Leong Sze Hian for his Facebook post is a targetted attempt by the authorities to silence the human rights defender”.
On 7 November 2018, the blogger shared a link of an article that had been published by The Coverage on his Facebook page, without comment or amendment. The article claimed that editor-in-chief of investigative journalism platform Sarawak Report Ms Clare Rewcastle had mentioned Singapore as “one of the key investigation targets, alongside Switzerland and United States” in the 1MDB corruption scandal during an interview with Malaysian media.
However, on 10 November 2018 at around 7.30pm, the human rights defender removed his post after reading a notice from the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) demanding that the post be taken down within six hours. The notice was actually sent to Mr Leong the day before at around 11pm, but he only read it the next morning
Although he complied to the request and removed his post, but the blogger received a letter from PM Lee’s lawyer alleging that the Facebook post had been published with malicious intent and that both the post and the article “contains allegations that are highly defamatory to (their) client” on 12 November 2018. As such, on 4 December 2018, PM Lee filed a defamation suit against him.
In an attempt to retaliate this, Mr Leong filed a countersuit against PM Lee for the abuse of the process of the Court.
After Mr Leong filed the counterclaim, PM Lee’s lawyers made an application to strike out the counterclaim “on the ground that it has no basis in law and is completely hopeless”. In response, the veteran blogger then filed an application to strike out PM Lee’s claim for abuse of process of the court and the hearing for both their applications were heard on Monday (25 February).
After the hearing, Justice Aedit Abdullah had reserved judgement for both applications and will be announcing it in “written grounds” in the near future.
Commenting on this whole situation, FLD said that it “strongly condemns the proceedings brought against Leong Sze Hian which is one of many cases being brought against human rights defenders, including Jolovan Wham, in the country. Front Line Defenders recognises that these cases are part of an ongoing effort to clamp down on freedom of expression in Singapore”.