SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A Singapore High Court judge on Thursday ordered a blogger to pay the prime minister S$150,000 ($106,172) in damages for defamation, his written judgement seen by Reuters showed.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong successfully sued the blogger, Roy Ngerng, for a post last year in which Ngerng was accused of implicating Lee in impropriety in connection with the management of funds in a mandatory retirement savings scheme.
The High Court had earlier ordered Ngerng to pay Lee S$29,000 in legal fees.
Leaders of Singapore, Southeast Asia’s prosperous business hub, have in the past sued or settled out of court with foreign media for alleged defamation, but it was the first time a blogger has faced such action.
Justice Lee Seiu Kin said Ngerng had acted out of malice.
“He had, to put it simply, called the plaintiff a thief when what he had wanted to do was to criticise the CPF policy of the government headed by the plaintiff,” Lee wrote in the judgment, referring to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) saving scheme.
“He had no basis to call the plaintiff a thief and it was totally unnecessary for the purpose of his criticism of the CPF policy.”
The justice, however, said he had taken into consideration Ngerng’s “modest standing”, which warranted a “substantial reduction” from what had been awarded to leaders involved in similar cases in the past.
Ngerng declined to comment when contacted by Reuters via email but said on his Facebook page he would have to discuss his next step with his lawyer.
“I have put the case behind me and am trying to move on with my life,” he said. “What’s more important for me, is that we do what we believe in and are passionate about, and work hard to be honest people.”
Reporting by Rujun Shen; Editing by Robert Birsel