Leong Sze Hian, a financial consultant and well-known Singaporean blogger who has been sued by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over a Facebook share he made earlier on 7 November, wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday that he was bewildered when Davinder Singh of Drew and Napier LLC sent him a Letter of Demand on the 12th of November alleging that he had defamed the Prime Minister and demanding that he make a public apology and compensate the Prime Minister for damages.
He explains that he had only shared an article that had appeared in the Malaysian online news media, TheCoverage.my and did not add any comments or embellish the article by The Coverage.my.
Leong wrote, "It is therefore grossly inaccurate for certain State media to have represented to the whole of Singapore that I had made a post which was defamatory of the Prime Minister."
TOC wrote in an earlier report about Straits Times' rather misleading headline where it said "PM Lee sues financial adviser Leong Sze Hian for defamation". This is not entirely true. The ST headline makes it seem like it was Leong who was behind the offending article when in reality, he merely shared it. As the article was a premium article, readers who are not subscribers simply had to assume the matter from the headline.
In its latest report (not premium) on Thursday about Leong's clarification, Straits Times wrote,
In his Wednesday Facebook post, Mr Leong also stressed that he did not add any comments or embellish the article taken from The Coverage when he shared it.
But court documents obtained by The Straits Times earlier this week show the offending words in the post referred to the title of the article. These were: "Breaking news: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong becomes 1MDB's key investigation target - Najib signed several unfair..."
These words "meant and were understood to mean that the Plaintiff (PM Lee) was complicit in criminal activity relating to 1MDB", said the Prime Minister's lawyers from Drew & Napier.
There are also offending words in the article and when taken with those in the title, they "are false and baseless and were calculated to disparage and impugn the Plaintiff in his office as the Prime Minister", the lawyers said.
Now anyone who used Facebook including reporters from Straits Times would have known that the title of an article will be shown in the shared post.
To illustrate the case, the below photo shows what the offending article looks like when shared on Facebook.
And if you compare to the words highlighted in the court documents by the lawyers, it is exactly what their case is about. That Leong's post had the title of the article shown on his Facebook post even when he wrote nothing to indicate his stance on the matter just as what many others did with their Facebook shares.
ST's choice of words, "But court documents obtained by The Straits Times earlier this week show the offending words in the post referred to the title of the article." after Leong's clarification that he did not add any captions to the share, therefore gives a misleading impression that he did, in fact, write something in his Facebook share.
This creates a misunderstanding to readers who have no idea of the circumstance surrounding the allegations made by the Prime Minister and many who understood that PM is suing Leong simply over a Facebook share are voicing their criticism over the decision to do so, given his identity as a public figure and a politician.