Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dr Lim Hock Siew sues NLB and book publisher

Lim Hock Siew sues four parties over book
Offending words tarnished my reputation, says ex-political detainee
By Cai Haoxiang

FORMER political detainee Lim Hock Siew, 80, is suing four parties for defamation over a news item in a book, Chronicle Of Singapore: Fifty Years Of Headline News (1959-2009).

He is claiming damages and a court injunction to stop the defendants repeating the words in the particular item. The book recounts Singapore's history through summary reports from newspapers and news magazines.

The four being sued are book publisher Editions Didier Millet (EDM), the National Library Board (NLB), book editor-in- chief Peter Lim, and printer Tien Wah Press.

Dr Lim was a political activist first with the People's Action Party and then with the opposition Barisan Sosialis.

In 1963, he was arrested and detained without trial for nearly 20 years before his release in 1982.

Dr Lim is taking issue with a news item on page 77, headlined 'Lim Chin Siong hurt in prison fight'.

The item, culled from newspapers, said Dr Lim and his supporters were in a fight at Changi Prison with fellow detainee Barisan Sosialis secretary-general Lim Chin Siong and his supporters.

Details of the fight and a reported injury to Mr Lim were first published in 1965 in The Straits Times and in the Chinese daily Sin Chew Jit Poh.

But in 1966, the newspapers - in court hearings on libel suits against them by Dr Lim and Mr Lim - settled the cases with the payment of a sum of money.

In statements read out in court at the time, their lawyers confirmed there was no truth in the allegations about Dr Lim and Mr Lim that appeared in the articles.

The article was based on information from an outside source which was believed at the time to be reliable and genuine, but subsequently found to be false, the lawyers added.

The lawyer for The Straits Times noted the newspaper took the earliest opportunity to print a correction and apology.

In the case of Dr Lim and Mr Lim, The Straits Times admitted to publishing the words complained about, but denied that these defamed the two men.

Sin Chew admitted defaming Dr Lim and paid $7,000 in damages. It did not admit defaming Mr Lim but paid him an undisclosed sum.

In the suit Dr Lim filed this month, he cited various articles in 1966 and said these made clear 'there was no truth in the report that there was a fight'.

The news item Dr Lim complained about appeared in both the first edition of the book in 2009, and in a reprint last year. EDM published the book in association with the NLB.

Mr Peter Lim, a former editor-in-chief of Singapore Press Holdings' English and Malay newspapers, oversaw the book's editorial team.

Dr Lim, represented by lawyer R. Joethy, said in his writ of summons filed on Feb 10 that, because of 'widespread publication' of the offending words, his reputation has been 'seriously' tarnished and that he has 'suffered considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment'.

Dr Lim issued letters to the defendants last December demanding a withdrawal of the offending words, an adequate apology, as well as damages and costs.

The writ said that EDM, through its lawyers, offered an apology on Jan 31, but in terms unacceptable to Dr Lim. The other defendants had not complied with his demands.

An NLB spokesman said yesterday the matter was in the hands of its lawyers. Mr Peter Lim and EDM declined comment while Tien Wah Press did not respond to queries.


Below is an earlier exchange of letters, published in the Straits Times forum page, between Lim Chin Joo and the publisher.

Jan 21, 2011

Book publisher's reply raises more questions

PUBLISHER Editions Didier Millet took sole responsibility in general manager Charles Orwin's reply ('NLB didn't perpetuate any falsehood, says publisher'; Monday) to my letter about an error in a book his firm 'co-published' with the National Library Board ('Chin Siong story in book was admitted to be false in 1966'; Dec 31).

But Editions Didier Millet's (EDM) reply about the book, Chronicle of Singapore: Fifty Years Of Headline News (1959-2009), raises further questions such as:

Was it appropriate for a national institution such as the National Library Board (NLB) to agree to lend credibility to a privately undertaken publication by having itself acknowledged as a partner and co-publisher when, as EDM now says, it was not?

Does a national institution, by allowing itself to be identified as a co-publisher of a privately undertaken publication, associate itself with the accuracy of the contents?

As my letter stated, the book carries a news item which was established to be false in 1966.

I have urged, as a matter of public interest, that falsehoods should not be perpetuated as part of our history.

These were the pertinent matters raised that should have been swiftly and appropriately addressed.

Lim Chin Joo

Jan 17, 2011

NLB didn't perpetuate any falsehood, says publisher

MR LIM Chin Joo's letter ('Chin Siong story in book was admitted to be false in 1966'; Dec 31) incorrectly suggests that the National Library Board (NLB) failed in its duty to the public by allowing falsehoods to be perpetuated.

Mr Lim's suggestion is based on the mistaken belief that the book, Chronicle Of Singapore: Fifty Years Of Headline News (1959-2009), was co-published by the NLB. It was not. The book was published solely by Editions Didier Millet.

EDM had earlier published similar books in Thailand and Malaysia and came up with the idea of having one for Singapore. To enable us to obtain material for the book, we requested NLB permission to access its library materials. The NLB kindly agreed.

Once access was granted, we researched and selected stories for inclusion in the book, including the item which Mr Lim had raised. After the selection, we completely rewrote the materials. We were also wholly responsible for the conceptualisation, design and production work of the book.

In the circumstances, the NLB did not co-publish, much less perpetuate any alleged falsehood.

Far from failing to discharge its duties, in granting us access, the NLB was in fact complying with its duty under the National Library Board Act to provide a repository for library materials, including newspapers, to facilitate access to such materials.

In the book, we acknowledge the NLB as co-publisher, not to suggest that it had any role in publishing the book, but to thank it for its assistance in granting us access to the materials.

Charles Orwin
General Manager
Editions Didier Millet

Dec 31, 2010

Chin Siong story in book was admitted to be false in 1966

THE book, 1959-2009 Chronicle Of Singapore, Fifty Years Of Headline News, carries a report published in The Straits Times on Nov 22, 1965 ('Chin Siong: Hurt in free-for-all'). This story, which claimed that my late brother Lim Chin Siong had been involved in a fight in prison, was established to be false back in 1966 itself.

My brother had sued the paper for libel and the lawyer for Straits Times Press (Malaya) had acknowledged that 'there is in fact no truth' in the allegations made against my brother in the report (''Free for all' libel action by Chin Siong is settled'; May27, 1966).

The paper had also printed a correction and apology, and 'paid into court a sum of money in satisfaction of the plaintiff's claim in this action without admission of liability'.

The book is a collaborative effort by Editions Didier Millet and the National Library Board. It is difficult to understand how a story that had been acknowledged to be false escaped detection despite all the corrective proof-reading such a major collaborative effort involving a national institution would have entailed.

As a key custodian of published national history, the National Library Board owes members of the public a duty not to let falsehoods be perpetuated as part of history.

Lim Chin Joo

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