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WSJ editor sued for contempt of court

SINGAPORE is charging a senior editor of the Wall Street Journal with contempt of court for three articles last year about the city-state's judiciary, the Straits Times reported yesterday.

High Court Justice Tay Yong Kwang approved an application by the Attorney-General's office to start proceedings against Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page, the newspaper reported, citing court documents.

The Attorney-General claims the articles, which appeared in the editorials and opinion section of the Journal's Asia edition, "contained passages that scandalize the Singapore judiciary," the paper said.

The Journal is published by Dow Jones & Co, which is owned by News Corp. Dow Jones' spokesman in Asia did not immediately respond.

Tay found the Journal in contempt of court in November and fined it S$25,000 (US$16,250) for publishing the articles.

At that time Attorney General Walter Woon argued that editorials published in June and July questioned the judiciary's independence from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the ruling People's Action Party. Not meting out punishment in the case would undermine the country's rule of law, the court said. Woon also objected to a letter to the editor written by Chee Soon Juan, head of the opposition Singapore Democratic Party.

Singapore's leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in recent years for alleged defamation, winning damages against Bloomberg, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune.

Human Rights Watch called on Singapore last year to stop using defamation lawsuits to stifle criticism and bankrupt opposition politicians.


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