- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 19, 2009

SINGAPORE (AP) - A Singapore judge ruled a senior Wall Street Journal editor was in contempt of court Thursday for two editorials and a letter to the editor published last year about the city-state’s judiciary, the attorney general’s office said.

Prosecutors said the editorials and letter questioned the independence of the judiciary from the ruling People’s Action Party and that they implied that the country’s courts stifle dissent.

The High Court previously had found the Journal in contempt of court in a Novermber ruling on the three writings, and on Thursday it additionally found Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page, in contempt.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang fined Kirkpatrick 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,549) and said she must pay the same amount in legal costs, the attorney general said in a statement.

“The public interest in protecting the Singapore judiciary from unwarranted attacks has been adequately served,” the statement added.

The Journal’s publisher Dow Jones & Co. “strongly disagrees with the court’s finding,” company spokesman and Vice President Robert Christie said in New York.

“Dow Jones is committed to defending the right of The Wall Street Journal Asia to report and comment on matters of international importance, including matters concerning Singapore,” he said.

Journalist rights groups claim the government uses lawsuits to quash dissent. Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in recent years for alleged defamation, winning damages against Bloomberg, The Economist and the International Herald Tribune.

“The government’s harassment of the Wall Street Journal indicates a chronic inability to tolerate criticism and is very harmful to the country’s image,” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch urged Singapore last year to stop using defamation lawsuits to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians, citing a High Court decision in October to order Chee Soon Juan and his Singapore Democratic Party to pay $416,000 to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, Lee Kuan Yew, in damages from a 2006 case.

Kirkpatrick did not contest her liability or apologize for her actions, the attorney general said. In 1985, a Singapore judge found Kirkpatrick in contempt of court for another Journal article and fined her SG$4,000, according to the attorney general.

Journal publisher Dow Jones & Co. is owned by News Corp.

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