Blog too low-key to hurt reputation: Ngerng

Blogger Roy Ngerng speaking to the media.
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.

  • Exchanges in court

  • Here are extracts of exchanges in court during Mr Roy Ngerng's cross-examination of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

    ON THE BLOG THE HEART TRUTHS

    Mr Roy Ngerng (RN): Do you know when I started writing my blog?

    PM Lee Hsien Loong (PM): No.

    RN: 2012. Do you know how many articles I've written?

    PM: No.

    RN: More than 400 articles.

    PM: Well done.

    ON MR LEE SUING FOR LIBEL

    RN: You've already said that you admitted that you used the law against me.

    PM: I have sued you for defamation and you're very unhappy about it. You don't accept that you have defamed me. You think I'm prosecuting and persecuting you.

    RN: Mr Lee, first, do not put words into my mouth. I said I accepted the judgment, I did not say I do not accept the judgment.

    PM: Because having acknowledged that you defamed me and having taken back all the words, you are now saying that you are innocent, that I am prosecuting you, I am silencing you and it is wrong for me to do that, when in fact I'm just vindicating my reputation.

    RN: You sued me, right? Are you using the law to persecute me?

    PM: No.

    ON WHETHER MR LEE APPROACHED MR NGERNG BEFORE THE LAWSUIT

    RN:You did not reach out to me before you sued me?

    PM: No, you defamed me. I have to defend myself.

    RN: Yes, yes. The question is you didn't reach out to me.

    PM: Yes, I wrote you a letter asking you to take it down and apologise.

    RN: Now, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) wrote to me on Twitter, I used a photo of theirs and they asked for a photo credit. If you had reached out to me, we could have resolved things.

    PM: You have chosen a different path for your own reasons, I accept that. Well, you have to take the consequences.

    RN: Mr Lee, CNA did not send me a demand letter ... They request, and I did it voluntarily. Would you have chosen to not send me a demand letter?

    PM: You have been skirting closer and closer to defaming me for a long period of time. I have been watching this, I have not responded. Eventually, it was unambiguous and flagrant and I decided I had no choice but to act.

    RN: Mr Lee, you just made an accusation about me.

    PM: Because you have been making more and more outrageous allegations about the CPF, stopping short of accusing me of doing bad things personally, but coming closer and closer to saying that. And at some point last year, when you published this post on 15 May 2014, I consulted my lawyers and it was completely unambiguous and I could not not act.

    Walter Sim

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2015, with the headline 'Blog too low-key to hurt reputation: Ngerng'. Print Edition | Subscribe