Shuttered Singapore News Site’s Editor Jailed

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The editor of a shuttered Singaporean news website was on Thursday jailed three weeks for defamation over a letter the portal published alleging corruption among government ministers.

It is the latest case to fuel concerns about worsening press freedoms in tightly controlled Singapore, with authorities accused of using heavy-handed tactics to silence dissent.

The Online Citizen (TOC), which was often critical of authorities, had its license to operate cancelled in October over a failure to declare funding sources.

Terry Xu, TOC’s former chief editor, was convicted the following month of defaming cabinet members over the publication of a letter stating there was “corruption at the highest echelons”.

District Judge Ng Peng Hong sentenced Xu to three weeks’ jail on Thursday.

Ng said in sentencing remarks he thought a jail term was warranted after considering “the nature of the allegation, the standing of the defamed parties, as well as the wide spread of the publication”.

The letter’s author, Daniel De Costa, was also sentenced to three months and three weeks in jail.

He was convicted last year of defamation and breaking computer crime laws for sending the opinion piece from another person’s email account without their consent.

Xu wrote on Facebook that he had opted to serve his sentence immediately, even though he planned to appeal against the conviction.

“I am not afraid of the jail sentence imposed upon me and strongly deny the charge placed before me,” he wrote.

He had argued that the letter was not referring to individual members of the cabinet.

Separately, Xu and another TOC writer were ordered to pay substantial damages last year after losing a defamation suit against Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Singapore’s media sector is dominated by pro-government outlets.

The city-state ranks 160th out of 180 countries and territories in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, where number one indicates the country with the greatest media freedoms.



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