Blogger withdraws stat board challenge

The stage was set for a David-and-Goliath showdown. A 21-year-old blogger, accused of defaming the Council of Private Education (CPE), launched a court challenge that statutory boards do not hold the right to sue for libel.

But Ms Han Hui Hui yesterday withdrew the challenge she had issued in April without asking for costs from the council.

It all started the previous month when the former student at private school Shelton College said such institutions were "unethical" for distributing examination questions along with their answers for students to memorise.

This prompted no action from CPE until April, when she made her offending statements in e-mail she reproduced online and sent to media organisations.

CPE then instructed its lawyers from Allen & Gledhill to ask Ms Han to cease and desist publication and make a public apology, or risk legal action.

Ms Han retaliated by launching the challenge. Her lawyer M. Ravi argued that the CPE, as a "governmental body with corporate status", could not threaten to sue for defamation as that would incur an "undesirable chilling effect" on citizens.

But CPE lawyers, citing the Private Education Act, said this was not true.

They also said enforcing a complete bar on such suits may encourage "completely baseless, false and irresponsible allegations" outside the realm of constructive criticism.

CPE said in a statement yesterday that it would not be taking further action on this matter, because Ms Han had closed her blog and Facebook page on April 24 this year.

waltsim@sph.com.sg