February 26, 2007

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Home and away defamation

Unsurprisingly the FEER lost a procedural decision in Sinagpore's courts...and in the midsts of a report on the matter comes this interesting paragraph:

whether the Lees intend to carry their threat outside the city-state because even if the courts ultimately award them damages, it is unlikely that they could recoup within the country itself. Firewalls erected between sister companies mean that Dow Jones Corporation, which owns the publication, would probably be protected from any defamation judgment as well.

The government could conceivably take advantage of a Commonwealth statute that allows for reciprocal enforcement of damages and ask the Hong Kong courts to order the Review to pay up. A Singaporean judgment would first have to be registered in Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance, where it would be enforced like a local judgment. The Review would have the right to raise objections and set out reasons that the judgment shouldn’t be honoured. But in his written judgment turning down the magazine's appeal, Menon wrote that it is clear that the Lees were limiting their claim for damages to Singapore and that legal papers had been served in an appropriate manner.

It seems that's unlikely the Singaporeans will come to Hong Kong, which is telling both on the merits of the case and the merits of Singapore's judiciary.

posted by Simon on 02.26.07 at 01:46 PM in the Media category.


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The Lees have good reason not to let these type of lawsuits get outside the family homestead.

In a Canadian lawsuit a company "alleged that links between the judiciary, business and the executive arm in Singapore suggested a real risk of bias."

That's generally not the case in Singapore for corporate matters. The Transparency International ranking on corruption is more or less deserved in relation to corporate law. And the matter in question before the Canadian court was in some ways a nusiance case ("two of (the company's) expert witnesses ... had admitted they were unaware of any commercial case from Singapore that had been attacked as unfair or biased"),

Still, while I'm not a legal expert, I'm guessing that if the Nanny state tried to enforce the judgement of its courts on matters of libel and defamation outside its borders it could undermine the value of the other judgements of its courts and government internationally. It would be far, far easier to argue that links between the judiciary and the executive arm make a fair hearing impossible in the country (it would be damn hard to argue otherwise).

Citations pulled from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakwell_Engineering_v._Enernorth_Industries

posted by: Myrick on 02.26.07 at 11:19 PM [permalink]

My sense is that this is not about legal principles, but political tactics. The Lees want to show Singaporeans that they rule the roost. No need to take it out of the city-state.

posted by: Sam on 02.27.07 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Extract from judgment:
6 Before the assistant registrar, the appellants’ challenge was dismissed but with a slight reservation. While the assistant registrar was satisfied that it was sufficiently clear that the claims for damages were confined to losses arising from the publication of the disputed article in Singapore, she sought and obtained an undertaking from counsel for the respondents to limit the reach of any injunctive relief sought to Singapore. As to whether service of process had been effected properly, the assistant registrar found in favour of the respondents. Dissatisfied, the appellants filed these appeals against the whole of the assistant registrar’s decision.

This undertaking on its own will not prevent a later successful money claim for damages in Singapore from being registered in Hong Kong.

posted by: gunlaw on 02.28.07 at 04:20 PM [permalink]

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