In a society where information can spread rapidly, understanding the effects of defamation is imperative.
Singapore has strict defamation laws in place to safeguard people from unjustified attacks on their character and reputation. This article aims to provide you with the fundamentals of Singapore’s defamation law as well as the benefits of speaking with a lawyer who specialises in this field.
What is defamation?
Defamation encompasses both libel and slander. Slander is the term for spoken defamatory statements, whereas libel refers to defamatory statements produced in a permanent form, such as written or printed words.
In order to establish defamation, the statements must be defamatory, they must be about the claimant, and they must be published to third parties.
Who can sue for defamation?
Both individuals and organisations may sue for defamation.
Several high-profile cases involving celebrities in Singapore have shed light on the importance of defamation law.
For instance, local actor and celebrity Edmund Chen sued a public relations and marketing consultant for spreading WhatsApp messages, that he deemed were defamatory, to at least 11 people in 2017.
In March 2022, marathoner Soh Rui Yong lost his appeal against a judgment that he had defamed fellow runner Ashley Liew in his blog posts and Facebook posts. The court found that Soh’s Facebook Posts on his Facebook Page had “reached” 6,531 people, been “engaged” by 3875 people and had 3,628 “post click.
Another example is Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong winning defamation suits against the editor and writer of socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC), who had published articles that were defamatory in nature.
Defending against a defamation lawsuit
There are a number of defences you might use if you find yourself being sued for defamation, with some of the most common ones being justification (or proving the truth of what you say), fair comment and qualified privilege.
- Justification: If you can prove that the defamatory statement is true, the action against you for defamation will fail.
- Fair comment: Fair comment enables people to voice their honest opinions on issues of public concern without running the risk of being held liable for defamation. The caveat to that is that the person expressing the comment or opinion must have honestly believed in those views at the time of the publication and must not have been motivated by malice.
- Qualified privilege: When statements are made on occasions where there may have been a reciprocal common interest or duty or a legal social or moral duty between the maker and the recipient, even if the statement turns out to be untrue, qualified privilege will apply. Again, the caveat is that the maker must have honestly believed in the truth of his statements at the time of publication and he must not have been motivated by a dominant motive to injure the other person. Qualified privilege arises typically where there is a “relationship” between the maker and the recipient in respect of the subject matter, for example, between an employer and an employee or between subsidiary proprietors and council members of a condominium.
What can you get if you succeed in a defamation action?
If you win a defamation lawsuit in Singapore, you can be entitled to financial compensation and some costs.
Damages, which can include both general and special damages, are meant to compensate for the harm caused to the claimant’s reputation. General damages account for the whole harm suffered, whereas special damages are used to compensate for particular financial losses brought on by the defamation.
You can also ask for an injunction against a defendant who, from the facts, is likely to repeat the defamatory statements about you.
Why do you need a lawyer who is a defamation expert to act for you?
Defamation law is a specialised field that necessitates a thorough comprehension of legal procedures and concepts.
Hiring a Singapore defamation lawyer with the relevant experience can significantly increase your chances of success. A defamation expert will be knowledgeable and skilled enough to guide you through the complexity of defamation law, advise you on the best course of action, and create successful strategies. This will allow you to get the desired outcomes.
In summary, Singapore’s defamation law offers crucial defences for people and organisations against false allegations that might harm their professional and personal reputations.
It is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a lawyer with experience in defamation law if you find yourself involved in a defamation dispute. Their knowledge will be crucial in defending your interests and making sure that your case is resolved with the desired outcome.
DC Law LLC is a reputable and experienced law firm that specialises in defamation law. As experts in defamation law, we are well-versed in the local legal framework and continually work to provide solutions customised to our clients’ goals and needs. Our Managing Director Doris Chia has more than 30 years of experience in the area of defamation law and is widely accepted in the legal profession as an expert in defamation law. Doris has written three legal textbooks on defamation law and her books have been cited by the courts in Singapore and Malaysia.
Contact us today to learn more.