Singapore to sue Wall Street Journal for contempt of court

September 12th, 2008 - 11:03 am ICT by IANS  

Singapore, Sep 12 (IANS) The Singapore government plans to sue the publishers and owner of the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal (WSJA) for two articles questioning the impartiality and integrity of the Singapore judiciary.Singapore attorney general’s office Thursday issued a statement saying it has sought permission from the court to institute contempt of court proceedings against the newspaper’s owner, Dow Jones Publishing Company (Asia) Inc., for articles published in the newspaper that “impugn the impartiality, integrity and independence of the Singapore judiciary”.

The attorney general’s office has also named Daniel Hertzberg, editor, and Christine Glancey, managing editor, of the newspaper in the contempt proceedings for publishing two editorials on June 26 and July 15 this year. Also cited was a letter to the editor by the opposition Singapore Democratic Party leader Chee Soon Juan, published in the daily on July 9.

“The items allege that the Singapore judiciary is not independent. It is further insinuated that the Singapore judiciary is biased and lacks integrity. These allegations and insinuations in these items are unwarranted,” the attorney general’s statement said.

One of the editorials was on an exchange in court between Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Chee in a separate defamation case filed by Lee against the opposition leader. The other editorial commented on a report by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute alleging executive interference in the judiciary.

The articles were published at a time when another Dow Jones Co. publication, the Far Eastern Economic Review, is defending itself in a another defamation action by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Dow Jones Co. and the Journal have not commented on Thursday’s contempt of court proceedings.

“This case is not about freedom of expression. It is about the rule of law,” the attorney general’s office said, adding that an attack on the judiciary was “an assault on the rule of law in Singapore”.

In the city-state’s two-stage contempt of court process, the attorney general applies for permission from the court to institute the contempt proceedings. If the court, after viewing the evidence, is satisfied that there are grounds for a case, a hearing is notified. The defendants are notified about the hearing to present their arguments in open court.

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