- 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.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang also fined Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page, 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,549) and said she must pay the same amount in legal costs, the attorney general said in a statement.

“With the conviction of Ms. Kirkpatrick for contempt of court, the public interest in protecting the Singapore judiciary from unwarranted attacks has been adequately served,” the statement 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.

“We urge the High Court to reverse this decision in order not to jeopardize the freedom of foreign journalists to express their views about the situation in Singapore,” Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said earlier this week, referring to the government’s intention to charge Kirkpatrick.

“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,” it 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.

Tay found the Journal in contempt of court in November and fined it SG$25,000 ($16,400) for publishing the same two editorials and letter to the editor which the government claimed questioned the judiciary’s independence from Lee and the ruling People’s Action Party.

“It is implied in these three publications that the Singapore courts do not dispense justice fairly in cases involving political opponents … and that the courts facilitate the suppression of political dissent or criticism in Singapore,” the attorney general said.

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.

The Journal is published by Dow Jones & Co, which is owned by News Corp. Dow Jones’ spokesman in Asia, Joe Spitzer, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment or answer calls to his cell phone.



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