Following a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) student’s account of an article published on the front page of Lianhe Wanbao regarding his COVID-19 experience without his consent, an intellectual property lawyer has spoken up on her personal experience with Singapore Press Holdings (SPH)’s alleged refusal to correct its news outlets’ articles regarding a traffic collision with a taxi driver in 2014.
Moi Sok Ling, who is also an adjunct associate professor at the National University of Singapore’s engineering faculty, said in a Facebook note on Tuesday (19 May) that SPH’s refusal to amend its “misleading articles” have led to doxxing and abusive comments from members of the public.
While Ms Moi herself had suffered direct adverse consequences as a result of the accident, such as injuries that required her to be on hospitalisation leave for several weeks, she claimed that articles in Lianhe Wanbao, Shin Min Daily News and The Straits Times regarding the incident have falsely painted her unfavourably — namely, as a “greedy” person in the process of seeking compensation.
“First, the claim was disputed only against the taxi’s insurer, and not fought with the taxi driver even though he was technically named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The insurance company contested my claim rigorously at every stage of the lawsuit – it was a battle of David and Goliath for me going up against a corporate giant.
“The taxi driver, who was found by the trial judge to be 100% to blame for causing the accident, did not have to compensate me personally in any way and I most definitely did not demand him to make the compensation, as suggested by SPH’s headlines/captions,” she said.
Ms Moi also rebutted reports stating that the taxi driver was made to bear full responsibility for the accident and that he was sued “tragically” out of pocket.
“Singapore’s compulsory motor insurance scheme was enacted precisely to ensure that victims of road traffic accidents would receive compensation, and their recovery is not dependent on the financial means of the errant driver,” she said.
The SPH articles, said Ms Moi, had falsely reported her as having made her injury claims based on a loss of career progression or prospects.
“The Lianhe Zaobao/Shin Min Daily News caption/article went further to state that “she claimed her injuries adversely impacted her career and promotion prospects, therefore she sued the cabby” (“她称伤势影响她的前途和升职机会, 因此起诉德士司机…”). This is patently false.
“Nowhere in my pleadings or evidence did I make any claim for loss of career or promotion prospects. Such a false narrative paints me in an unfavourable light, and indeed, many netizens were misled to comment that I was delusional and greedy in making a claim for promotions which are not guaranteed,” she explained.
SPH’s articles on accident claims not only misleading, but were written based on information derived from doxxing and lack of consent: IP lawyer Moi Sok Ling
As a result of SPH’s articles, netizens on various forums posted personal details of Ms Moi and made crude assumptions about her intent in suing the taxi driver over her accident.
However, as vile and sexist as the netizens’ remarks were towards her, Ms Moi said that SPH’s reports on her injury claims process demonstrated that “what is worse than doxxing by individual netizens is doxxing by reporters with the power and reach of the mass media behind them”.
The Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) was enacted precisely to protect “the privacy of private individuals, even those who are legally or morally culpable” by criminalising doxxing, stalking and other forms of online harassment, she said.
Yet, Ms Moi added, she was subjected to harassment by SPH reporters who had taken turns to show up at her office and even trespassing into her private residential estate in September last year.
“I had to call the security guard to remove the trespasser,” she alleged.
“That evening, both SPH’s Chinese papers, Lianhe Wanbao and Shin Min Daily News, carried a “breaking news” story about my case on their front page, with the former splashing my photograph prominently on its front page.
“The SPH English and Chinese articles were also published on SPH’s websites and social media platforms,” Ms Moi added.
Earlier on in the same month, Ms Moi said that ST had gone on to publish about her article identifying her by name, age, employment details and injuries despite pleas made by her and her lawyer.
She said that this took place after she had “offered instead an exclusive interview at a later stage” to a senior reporter, who had contacted her to ask for court documents and an interview while she was “frantically preparing for trial”.
Ms Moi pointed out that she and her claims lawyer had offered such a solution because they were concerned that “any publicity at that time might jeopardise the settlement negotiations with the insurance company”.
Despite having communicated her distress regarding the previous articles to the head of SPH Chinese Media Group, Ms Moi said that SPH had gone on to publish a second article regarding her case the following month.
Through the SPH Chinese Media Group head, Ms Moi said that she was able “to discuss possible corrective actions” with an ST news editor.
“However, ST published the second article on 15 November 2019, in the morning just before the scheduled afternoon meeting with the editor.
“The second ST article reproduced largely the same contents including my name, age, employment details and injuries, and this time publishing my photograph and splashing it on its Facebook post,” she said.
SPH “refused to accede” to requests for redress over misleading articles: IP lawyer Moi Sok Ling
Ms Moi also disclosed that she had issued a legal letter to SPH in December last year requesting “clarification and take-down of the online articles”.
However, she said that the company has “refused to accede” to any of her requests.
“Legalities aside, one would have thought that SPH would do the right and responsible thing. They should offer immediate remedial actions upon learning of the harassment and threats visited upon me following the widespread public misperception caused by their articles.
“Surely, the priority is to minimise further harm to me? How difficult is it to issue a correction or clarification? Instead, the SPH’s reporters and editors have chosen to hide behind their legal team to categorically deny all responsibility,” said Ms Moi.
She also questioned SPH’s reluctance to disclose the identities of the taxi company or insurance company involved in the accident in 2014 in any of the relevant published articles.
“Surely, the public would benefit from being informed about the safety record of taxi companies, the compulsory motor insurance scheme or what to do in an accident claim process.
“Most importantly, the public should be assured that the victim of a traffic accident would receive compensation from the insurance company whatever the financial means of the errant driver,” said Ms Moi.
“What more, then, for victims who need the space and time to recover from their injuries and ordeals. Why should they be made to suffer twice over because of irresponsible media coverage?” she stressed.
Touching on why she has chosen to share her experience with the public at this point, Ms Moi said that she has opted to do so “in solidarity with the NTU student and many others who have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of irresponsible reporting by the media”.
“Through my speaking up in this case, it is my hope that future accident victims and insurance claimants will not be deterred from pursuing legal remedy for fear of repercussions arising from unwanted adverse publicity,” she added.
NTU student debunks “fake news” on his COVID-19 experience, condemns SPH’s decision to publish article containing material and sources unconsented to
Ms Moi’s testimony was made in the wake of an exposé by NTU student Quah Zheng Jie on an article published on the front page of Lianhe Wanbao regarding his COVID-19 recovery process, which carried fabrications regarding his whereabouts as well as details of his recovery process during the circuit breaker (CB) period.
Mr Quah had shared on Facebook — among other records of correspondence with the Lianhe Wanbao journalist, whom he had referred to as “James” — screenshots of a conversation, in which he had expressly denied consent for “James” to publish sensitive details upon learning that “James” is a journalist.
He revealed that he and his family were psychologically affected by how easily identifiable he was in the article, despite certain changes being made by Lianhe Wanbao in the article to his surname and family circumstances to obscure his identity.
The article, which Mr Quah branded as “fake news”, had also sparked paranoia among members of the public who have read it by downplaying his pre-CB routine, as well as by concocting a false story on how his parents had “stayed at home” during CB — his parents work in essential services and thus were out for work daily during the period — and would still “risk” contracting the coronavirus.
In response to an open letter by Han Yong May, an editor of NewsHub at SPH, Mr Quah revealed that apart from Ms Han’s apology, he had also received an e-mail response from SPH’s legal counsel — both of which he said he was disappointed by.
Both responses, he said, did not fully address the points that he raised in his first write-up.
The NTU student highlighted that SPH did not address how “James” – who he noted is an acquaintance of his – had fabricated crucial parts of his story, despite Ms Han’s claims that the Lianhe Wanbao article was based on extracts from his Instagram Stories.
Mr Quah, who was horrified by Lianhe Wanbao’s decision to publish an article that contained falsehoods, also questioned if the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) applies in this saga.
He also raised concerns on whether the media has the right to publish private citizens’ personal information and experience when they explicitly do not consent to journalists doing so.