Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday accused a journalist he is suing for defamation of being “reckless and malicious” in repeating “sensational allegations” about his relationship with his siblings in a 2019 article.
Lee spoke briefly via Zoom during an online-only High Court hearing in which the accused, Malaysian writer Rubaashini Shunmuganathan, did not participate, reports dpa news agency.
Local media said the accused failed to show up.
The editor of the The Online Citizen, a Singaporean news website which published the article, faces a separate suit over the article, which reported that Ho Ching, Lee’s wife, “weirdly” shared a link titled “here’s why it is sometimes OK to cut ties with family members”.
Ho posted the link at the height of a dispute between her husband and his siblings over the fate of the house belonging to their late father, Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Already this year, Lee Hsien Loong has won almost S$300,000 dollars in defamation suits against opposition politician Leong Sze Hian and blogger Roy Ngerng, both of whom crowdfunded the payments after losing in court.
Among the major international media to have been successfully sued by the Lees in the past include the New York Times, The Economist, Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.
Singapore ranked a lowly 160 out of 180 countries in the latest global press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders, which said the government “is always quick to sue journalists”, meaning the city-state “does not fall far short of China when it comes to suppressing media freedom”.