Thursday, May 05, 2005
Speak up ... But get your lawyers ready
"Speak up even if it jars, Vivian tells youths"
- Straits Times quoting Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Jan 5 2005
"'Well, you have the Internet - put up a website. You know how to put up a website? If you don't, I know a friend who can help you."
- MM Lee Kuan Yew in reply to a charge by student Jamie Han that channels to offer different views 'were either directly or indirectly controlled by the Government', Straits Times, Feb 1 2005
A*Star confirms warning to student over defamatory blog
By Wong Siew Ying, Channel NewsAsia
SINGAPORE : A*Star (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) confirmed it had warned a Singapore student of legal consequences over a public blog containing defamatory statements.
On Wednesday, Channel NewsAsia broke a story about how the Singapore student, who is pursuing his Masters degree in the United States, shut down his blog after he was threatened with legal action by A*Star.
Chen Jiahao was a former Public Service Commission scholar.
A*Star, in its response to Channel NewsAsia, said it found the public blog contained defamatory statements.
It also said it had the responsibility to protect its reputation and also that of Singapore.
So it warned the blogger of legal consequences unless the objectionable statements were removed and an acceptable apology published.
A*Star also said it welcomed a diversity of views in all media, but the statements made in the blog "went way beyond fair comment". - CNA
Student forced to shut down blog after libel threat
Singapore 28 April 2005
Reporters Without Borders today expressed support for a student from Singapore forced to shut down his blog on 26 April for fear of a libel action by the head of a government body and warned that "such intimidation could make the country's blogs as timid and obedient as the traditional media."
"Threatening a libel suit is an effective way to silence criticism and this case highlights the lack of free expression in Singapore, which is among the 20 lowest-scoring countries in our worldwide press freedom index," it said. "We especially support bloggers because they often exercise a freedom not seen in the rest of a country's media.
The threat of prosecution came from Philip Yeo, chairman of the government's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), which grants research scholarships, who claimed it was libelled in a blog by Jiahao Chen, a Singapore citizen currently studying in the United States. Writing under the pseudonym of Acid Flask, he criticised several government policies, including the A*STAR scholarship system and Yeo's justifications of them. He also agreed to his remarks being reproduced in the Electric New Paper. Yeo sent him several e-mails demanding that he delete all blogs mentioning him or A*STAR and threatening legal action if he did not.
A few days later, Acid Flask shut down the blog and posted a message of apology to Yeo in its place. Other Singapore blogs that had reproduced the remarks quickly afterwards posted apologies or themselves closed down.