An editor of a Singapore based website was charged with defamation on Thursday, December 13 for publishing a latter, which alleged that city-state leaders were involved in corruption. He faces a jail term up to two years and a fine, or both.
The government of Singapore has been facing criticism for restricting freedom of speech and other political rights, as well as slapping critics with financially ruinous libel suits. After the editor, Terry Xu faced charges in court, many groups questioned the "heavy-handed" response from authorities.
It should be noted that as per the Transparency International's (TI) Corruptions Perceptions Index 2017, this south-east Asian country was named as the sixth least corrupted country of that year.
However, in this case, as per the court documents Xu was charged in court with defaming ministers after his website, The Online Citizen, published a letter stating that there was "corruption at the highest echelons" of government.
After the report was lodged, police seized all the computers and other devices that were used to operate the website from the resident of the accused editor. The daily operation of the website was cancelled for a while but it is now running again.
The controversial letter's author was Daniel De Costa Augustin, who was also charged with defamation, as well as breaking computer crime laws for allegedly sending the writing from another person's email address without their consent.
Reports stated that the letter was published in September under the name of Willy Sum. But, it neither had names of the allegedly corrupt officials nor any evidence of such offence.
As reported by The New Straits Times, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson said the authorities had "once again responded to criticism with criminal charges," adding that "The government should respond to any inaccuracies in the letter by seeking a correction, apology or retraction, rather than with a heavy-handed criminal prosecution."