Appealing for support for Roy Ngerng, a blogger being sued by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long, Reporters Without Borders is posting a cartoon by the famous Malaysian cartoonist Zunar that calls for a show of support for Ngerng and for protests against government censorship.
A high court judge is due to decide on 18 September whether to proceed to a summary judgment against Ngerng at Lee’s request, without examining the substance of the defamation case against him.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its appeal to Lee to withdraw his lawsuit.
The winner of Cartoonist Rights Network International’s “Courage In Editorial Cartoon" prize in 2011, Zunar has had his own run-ins with the judicial authorities in Malaysia. In 2010, he was charged with sedition for publishing cartoons criticizing the country’s social and political situation.
“We hail the campaign by journalists and media freedom defenders such as Zunar, which recognizes Ngerng’s commitment to government transparency and the fundamental right to inform,” said Benjamin Ismaïl, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Asia-Pacific desk.
“Zunar has had to face the wrath of his own Prime Minister, Najib Razak. We hope that his support will help the Singaporean public, including Ngerng’s detractors, to understand that, rather than just defending one person, this is about defending the fundamental freedoms without which democracy is impossible.”
Prime Minister Lee is suing Ngerng over a blog entry on 15 May about his government’s management of the Central Provident Fund (CPF) for retirees. It was headlined “Where your CPF Money is going: Learning from the City Harvest Trial". Lee rejected Ngerng’s apology and an out-of-court settlement.
On 11 July, Lee went further and requested a summary judgement, which would mean that the court would take the alleged defamation as a given and would just determine and the penalty and the size of the damages award.
After Ngerng removed the offending blog entry on the Prime Minister’s insistence, Reporters Without Borders posted it on its “We Fight Censorship” website.
Singapore is ranked 150th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.