K Shanmugam; PAP

Singapore’s news website, The Independent Sg (ISG), has been sued for defamation by the government business conglomerate NTUC over several articles claiming that a hawker died from overworking. This is the third government’s operation in two weeks to clamp down on free media in Singapore.

The article titled, “Elderly hawker allegedly passed away after working 18-hour days to avoid hefty fine when NTUC Foodfare rejected appeal to shorten operating hours”, featured the daughter of the deceased who attacked the government-owned business for mindless profiteering.

Earlier on Tuesday (Nov 20), NTUC Foodfare sent a letter of demand to the owner of ISG, Protegesoft, to remove the offending articles by 3pm the next day and publish an apology, or be sued for defamation.

The news website ignored the deadline and wrote an article stating that it refuse to comply with NTUC’s demand. As an act of open defiance, ISG editor Kumaran Pillai even reproduced the letter of demand from NTUC’s lawyer.

NTUC letter; ISG

The website has continued to operate and there has been no response from NTUC so far, presumably to be preparing the legal proceedings.

This is the third website in 2 weeks the Singapore dictatorship government has began its clamp down on. On Nov 9th, the country’s most popular news website States Times Review was banned by the Infocomm Media Development Authority for allegedly publishing “fake news” that questioned Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over his role on the 1MDB saga and two bilateral treaties with Malaysia. STR editor Alex Tan refused to comply with the government and even challenged it to sue him in an Australian court.

A week later, the second website The Online Citizen saw its editor arrested and all computers seized by the Singapore police for alleged “criminal defamation”. The TOC editor Terry Xu was detained for over 8 hours and his website could no longer publish as their publishing access were all in the computers taken away by the police.