Press has no ‘qualified privilege’ defence in defamation suits, Court says



October 18th, 2009

In one of its dying gasps, the Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER) has failed to convince Singapore’s Court of Appeals that it had a qualified privilege as a media organisation to report on matters of public interest. It was defending itself against a defamation suit taken out by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

According to The Straits Times, the judges said that there is no law that recognises journalistic material as being of special importance in the context of publishing matters of public interest. The qualified privilege that Feer said it had was not part of Singapore law; it was introduced in England through changes to European law. They noted that lawyers for the Lees pointed out that in Singapore’s political context, the notion of the press as a “watchdog” is not accepted. The media has no special role beyond reporting the news and giving its views on matters of public interest fairly and accurately.

Click here for The Straits Times‘ report on the court ruling.

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