Security firm's defamation suit dismissed


Security services firm Certis Cisco Security had sued Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao for defamation,  but the case was dismissed on Wednesday (Aug 30).
Security services firm Certis Cisco Security had sued Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao for defamation, but the case was dismissed on Wednesday (Aug 30).PHOTO: ST FILE

A well-known security services firm sued for defamation, after an article appeared in Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reporting that a former television actress had lost some jewellery entrusted to its subsidiary.

But the case, brought by Certis Cisco Security, was dismissed on Wednesday, as the judge found the news report had used a term that meant, in Chinese, insurance company (baoxian gongsi) rather than one that meant security firm (baoan gongsi).

This meant that readers would not think the term in the article referred to the security firm. The judge ruled that the words were "not capable, in law, of referring to" the security vendor.

In July 2013, Wanbao published an article reporting Ms Ho Seng Mui as saying she had discovered a lot of jewellery missing from a safe deposit box she had maintained since 1990. Ms Ho was an actress with the former Singapore Broadcasting Corporation who had retired and moved to Hong Kong.

In 1990, she rented a safe deposit box in a facility provided by Certis Cisco Secure Logistics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Certis Cisco Security.

After discovering some of her valuables missing in 2012, she made a police report. She also gave a phone interview to Wanbao. The reporter, Ms Chan Yunn Horng, told the court she had camouflaged the firm's identity by calling it an insurance company because of anxieties expressed by Ms Ho.

According to court documents, the Wanbao article made four references to "insurance company" in Chinese (baoxian gongsi).

The plaintiff argued that the term might hint at a security company since they did not think insurance companies supplied safe deposit boxes. They said this made it easy for the public to come to a conclusion about its identity, even if it was not explicitly named.

The plaintiff also said previous reports in the media regarding missing valuables from safe deposit boxes would make the reference even clearer.

However, District Judge Loo Ngan Chor dismissed the case as the term used did not point to the security vendor's identity, when translated literally.

"The use of the Chinese words meaning 'insurance company' would have had the result that a sizeable number of the readers would not have made any connection to the plaintiff," said the judge.

The judge also concluded that the words did not carry defamation, nor did they suggest that the plaintiff had been dishonest in the case.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'Security firm's defamation suit dismissed'. Print Edition | Subscribe