The Online Citizen handed writ of summons for refusal to remove 'defamatory' post


Singapore prime minister Lee Hsien Loong has served a writ of summons at the residence of The Online Citizen‘s (TOC) editor-in-chief Terry Xu, according to a post by the TOC itself. This comes after 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”. He also refused to apologise for the post as demanded by the PM.

According to TOC, Xu has eight days to enter an appearance to defend against the claims made PM Lee. In the writ of summons, it was 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.

Meanwhile, Xu has since taken to Facebook to say that he has "no intention" of providing any additional statement or response to media queries other than providing factual updates on the status of the legal suit as anything said by any parties can be considered in the court hearing. Stating that it is unlikely that PM Lee will reply to media queries, Xu added in the post: "So why should I do anything different from what he is doing?"

Refusing to take down the article, Xu recently explained in a statement that he believes that the contents of the article "constitute fair comment", and he was merely "republishing the words uttered by [PM Lee's] siblings" publicly. However, he apologised for the possibility of misinterpretation. He said: "I am cognisant of the possibility that one reading the article may be open to the misinterpretation of the timing of your removal as an executor and trustee of the will of Mr Lee Kuan Yew."

"It was not my intention to suggest that your removal as an executor in the will of Mr Lee KuanYew occurred after 2011. Neither did I intend to suggest that your removal as an executor and trustee of the will was a result of the issue of the gazetting of the 38 Oxley," the statement added.

While he cost stemming from the legal suit may be hefty, Xu said that it is a price that he is willing to pay to uphold his principles and "obligations to Singapore" and fellow Singaporeans. He added that it is his role as the chief editor of TOC to always "speak truth to power".

It is my moral obligation to help dissipate the climate of fear that permeates discourse in Singapore to ensure a more open, vibrant and robust society for the future of Singapore.

Earlier this week, PM Lee gave TOC until 4 September 2019 to publish a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on its website and social media pages.

The letter by PM Lee’s press secretary, Chang Li Lin sent to Xu said similar to the “false allegations” made previously by his sister Dr. Lee Wei Ling, the article on the site allege that PM Lee misled his father  into thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been “gazetted by the Singapore government”. The letter sent to TOC outlined several “other false allegations” made and called the article libellous.

It reemphasised that PM Lee has chosen thus far not to sue his siblings as “suing them would further besmirch his parents’ names, and was therefore not his preferred course of action.” The letter to TOC added that PM Lee’s decision not to sue his siblings then did not mean that he would not ever take legal action, should this become necessary.