Proceedings begin against TOC chief editor Terry Xu for contempt of court over blog post

Terry Xu is currently embroiled in a defamation suit brought by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over an article also published on TOC about the Lee family's home at 38 Oxley Road.
Terry Xu is currently embroiled in a defamation suit brought by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over an article also published on TOC about the Lee family's home at 38 Oxley Road.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Proceedings have started against Terry Xu, the chief editor of sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC), for contempt of court.

They come after TOC published a post which questioned the justice system here.

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) told The Straits Times on Thursday (Aug 19) that its application for the proceedings was made on Aug 11, in response to a blog post TOC published on Jan 27.

In the TOC post, titled Open Letter To Singapore's Chief Justice Concerning Omissions In "Opening Of Legal Year 2021" Speech, a writer named Julie O'Connor had questioned how equitable the justice system in Singapore is.

Ms O'Connor addressed her post to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and made references to his speech at a ceremony to mark the opening of the 2021 legal year.

She referred to several cases from last year, such as the case of Ms Parti Liyani, the former domestic worker who was acquitted of theft. She also mentioned Mr Li Shengwu, who has been fined for contempt of court, as well as Ms Lee Suet Fern, who has been found guilty of misconduct in her handling of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's will.

"It is the AGC's position that the article impugned the integrity of the Singapore judiciary by, amongst others, insinuating that judges are not committed to the truth, favour individuals with political connections, are an instrument of political persecution, and decide cases otherwise than in accordance with their merits," said an AGC spokesman.

Xu is liable for contempt of court under Section 3(1)(a) of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act for publishing the piece on TOC's website and Facebook, the spokesman added.

Justice Hoo Sheau Peng had on Aug 6 granted the AGC leave to apply for an order of committal against Xu. The spokesman said that as the matter is before the court, the AGC will not be commenting further on this.

Xu is currently embroiled in a defamation suit brought by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over an article also published on TOC about the Lee family's home at 38 Oxley Road.

He is also on trial for a separate charge of criminal defamation for publishing an article in September 2018 which alleged corruption within the Government's highest ranks.

On Wednesday (Aug 18), Xu's lawyer, Mr Lim Tean, said that his client will be "vigorously challenging" the proceedings against him.

In a Facebook post, Mr Lim said that the author of the blog post has not been investigated or charged with contempt of court.

He added that as these proceedings would undoubtedly be a matter of great public interest, the AGC should release the statement it filed in court in support of its application.

This is "so that the public can be appraised of the facts of the case", said Mr Lim.