Wall Street Journal editor being sued for contempt of court

A Wall Street Journal editor has been sued for contempt of court in Singapore. The lawsuit stems from three articles last year on the city-state’s judiciary.
Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page, is being sued by the Attorney-General’s office in Singapore. High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang approved the application for the lawsuit allowing it to precede to court. The courts are also proceeding on contempt charges against the newspaper’s international editor Daniel Hertzberg and managing editor Christine Glancey.

The Attorney-General has alleged that the three articles “contained passages that scandalize the Singapore judiciary.” The news pieces were published in the Journal’s Asia edition in the editorials and opinion section.

The articles in question dealt with Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and others having to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew damages for libel, a letter from Dr. Chee as a rebuttal of the first editorial and an editorial on the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute’s report on the Singapore judiciary.

In November Justice Tay found the Journal in contempt of court fining it $16,250 for publishing the articles. It was the largest fine that the court’s have ever levied against a paper.

In the last few years Singapore’s leaders has sued journalists and political opponents for alleged defamation. The courts have ruled in favor of the leaders in these cases. Fines have been issued to Bloomberg, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune from these lawsuits.

Human Rights Watch called Singapore out last year on their use of defamation lawsuits as a means to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians.

Government leaders say that they are in their right to defend their personal and professional reputations. They say articles that speak out against them take away the respect that they need from the public and interferes with their ability to govern properly.

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