TOC editor-in-chief to self-represent in court, files memorandum of appearance following PM Lee’s filing of defamation suit

The Online Citizen‘s editor-in-chief Terry Xu has filed a memorandum of appearance with the High Court today afternoon (10 Sep) at 2:46 pm, in response to the writ of summons and statement of claim filed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against him last week.

This means that Mr Xu will contest the defamation suit filed by Mr Lee.

Mr Xu also revealed that he will be representing himself in court “after much deliberation and consideration”.

“As a result of this decision, there will be no crowdfunding for my legal defence as I do not have to pay any lawyer fees and court filing fees are still manageable. Please do not donate to any online or offline fund raising campaign created in name of my case,” he said.

However, Mr Xu urged members of the public who are still extremely keen on providing financial assistance to alternatively consider supporting TOC instead of donating to fundraising campaigns in his name.

“If members of the public are adamant on helping me at the onset of my legal battle against the Prime Minister, please consider supporting The Online Citizen (TOC), Singapore’s longest running independent online news platform, which is owned and currently solely run by me, who assumes the position as the Chief Editor and supported by a few staff and volunteers.

“As I will have to devote my time to prepare the case’s legal defence and learn the court’s procedural rules, the number of articles on TOC would likely drop and with that, its ad revenue.

“Therefore, I sincerely hope that supporters can help to finance the site so that it can stay afloat and remain operational while I navigate my way through the stormy journey ahead,” he said.

Members of the public who wish to provide financial support to TOC may do so by signing up as a subscriber via the website or making a contribution via the Patreon site. Contributions for the latter will be made in US Dollars.

Mr Xu said that the option to “drop off the annual subscription fee of S$60 with your email at our virtual office, 20 Maxwell Road #09-17 from 10am – 5pm weekdays” is also available for those who are “apprehensive about making online payments”.

“Alternatively, you can choose to commission TOC to cover stories that you are interested in,” he added.

High costs, not wanting to burden “supportive members of the public” behind decision to self-represent: Terry Xu

Commenting on his decision to represent himself in this dispute, Mr Xu said: “I do not wish to fight the case via an attorney because of the cost involved, and I do not want to pass the financial burden of engaging a legal team to supportive members of the public by conducting a crowd-funder.”

“While I will be fighting an up-mountain battle, as I do not have near-infinite resources unlike what the world’s highest paid politician would have, I am willing to take that chance so as to stand my ground against such uncalled-for intimidation, especially when it is from a public servant,” he added.

Mr Xu also said that “as a Singapore citizen”, he “would like to have the opportunity to ask my Prime Minister — straight in his face” as to why Mr Lee had opted to sue him for “repeating allegations made by his two siblings” instead of suing them “for making the same allegations back in 2017”.

Updates on the case, said Mr Xu, will be published directly on his Facebook profile, and not on either the TOC website or Facebook page, as it would be “improper” to have such updates on TOC‘s platforms, given that the Prime Minister is suing Mr Xu “an individual instead of TOC, which is an entity (a private limited company)”.

Mr Xu also took the opportunity to thank those who have “posted kind words of encouragement online” in light of the defamation suit.

“Rest assured that I have seen them though I cannot reply to them directly, and I will try my best to live up to your greatest hope and expectation. Majulah Singapura!” he said.

Following Mr Xu’s refusal to take down an article published on TOC titled “PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members” and issue an apology for the post, a writ of summons was served by Mr Lee to Mr Xu last Thu (5 Sep).

The writ of summons was sent with a statement of claim by Davinder Singh Chambers LLC on behalf of Mr Lee, which alleged that the article contained statements that are false and baseless, and that it was intended disparage and impugn PM Lee as well as his office as the Prime Minister.

Mr Xu maintained that “the contents of the article constitute fair comment”, as TOC was “merely republishing the words uttered by” Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling.

“I am of the opinion that the contents of the Article are not defamatory,” he added, particularly “in light of the public statements emanated from members of your own family, who, presumably, would have been privy to the events that the article refers to, and the issues of public interest that arise”.

However, he apologised for any possible misinterpretation that may arise from the article, in relation to the timing and reason behind Mr Lee’s removal as an executor in the will of the late Mr and Mrs Lee.

Mr Xu is expected to enter his defence for the case within 14 days from today. The pre-trial conference is due to take place on 15 Oct at 9.30am.