Blog too low key to hurt reputation

Blog too low key to hurt reputation
Blogger Roy Ngerng speaking to the media.
PHOTO: Reuters

Calling himself an "unsung, part-time blogger", Mr Roy Ngerng yesterday tried to show that his blog, The Heart Truths, had low credibility, reach and visibility.

Hence, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's reputation would have "barely been denigrated" by the post on his blog on May 15 last year.

The article has been found defamatory for suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund (CPF) savings.

Mr Ngerng, 34, is arguing that since he harboured no malice, there is no basis for Mr Lee to demand aggravated damages.

Mr Ngerng said his remorse was also evident, pointing out that he had made at least eight apologies, one of which has been on his blog "for 405 days" as of yesterday.

Before he made public the letter of demand from Mr Lee on his blog on May 19 last year, the article had only 9,112 views, Mr Ngerng said. But it drew 93,324 views between May 19 and its removal from the blog two days later.

He also said it was beyond his control if netizens hyperlinked to, or reproduced, his article on their blogs or Facebook pages.

He argued that Mr Lee was unable to provide statistics to show the eventual reach of his defamatory article from second-degree posts, and was just making "inferences".

When Mr Lee said it can be inferred that a Facebook post with one comment would have been read by several others as not everyone would leave a comment, he retorted: "That's like saying if I see one pig, I see several other pigs."

A subsequent video on YouTube on May 24 last year, which Mr Lee said aggravated matters, had dealt only with CPF management and reported on the defamation proceedings, Mr Ngerng said.

He agreed to delete the video when asked to do so. But what he did was to privatise it for five people to access. He took it down only a day later, when asked again.

Then, to draw the attention of local and international media to his case, he said he e-mailed to journalists a link to another site that had earlier reproduced his defamatory article. He also e-mailed them a link to his public apology and the letter of demand on his blog.

Disagreeing that this amounted to republishing the libellous material, he said providing the links "lacks the sting of the allegation".

By drawing attention to his apology, it was in effect a case of "the antidote to the poison (being) directly adjacent to the poison".

Mr Ngerng had made two offers to settle the matter out of court. Mr Lee deemed his $5,000 offer last year as derisory, and another of $10,000 in May as unrealistic in the light of Mr Ngerng's actions.

Mr Ngerng framed the lawsuit as "reckless", given that Mr Lee had a wealth of resources at his disposal to first engage him in a public dialogue.

Mr Ngerng also included in his opening statement letters of support from the International Commission of Jurists in Thailand and the Centre for International Law in the Philippines. He will be cross-examined by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Mr Lee's lawyer, today.


This article was first published on July 2, 2015.
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