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Singapore judge fines WSJ-Asia editor for criticizing judiciary

[JURIST] A judge for the Supreme Court of Singapore [official website] ruled Thursday that a Wall Journal Journal Asia (WSJ-Asia) [media website] editor was in contempt of court and personally liable for damages [press release, PDF] for publishing two editorials and a letter that criticized the impartiality of the city-state's judiciary. Judge Tay Yong Kwang ordered Melanie Kirkpatrick to pay USD $13,000 in fines and court costs for being in charge of the newspaper's editorial section when the articles were published. The case [complaint, PDF] is the second such contempt of court case brought by the Singapore attorney general [official website] over the same articles. In October, Tay held that publisher Daniel Hertzberg and proprietor Christine Glancery, were in contempt of Court [JURIST report] and fined them USD $16,500 plus court costs. In the complaint, the attorney general argued it was important to pursue contempt of court charges against individual members of the WSJ-Asia to serve as a deterrence against future such publications.

The Applicant’s objective in bringing these proceedings against the Respondent is to ensure that the editor who is responsible for the publication of the 3 offending items in WSJ Asia is held accountable for her actions. The Applicant’s understanding of the representations from the Respondent’s solicitors that the Respondent is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the ‘Editorials and Opinion’ section of the WSJ Asia and has final editorial responsibility over its contents is that the Respondent is directly responsible for the publication of the 3 offending items in WSJ Asia.
Kirkpatrick did not contest the charges and the attorney general urged a stiff penalty against her, in light of a previous contempt of court fine against her for USD $2,600 in 1985.

In July, the Singapore government rejected [JURIST report] claims by the International Bar Association's Human Rights Division [association website] that the country lacks an independent judiciary. In September, a Singapore Supreme Court judge sentenced US blogger and lawyer Gopalan Nair [blog; firm profile] to three months in jail [JURIST report] after he accused a judge "prostituting herself" in a defamation case brought by former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew [official profile]. The Singapore penal code [text] punishes insulting a public servant conducting a judicial proceeding with up to one year in prison, a fine, or both.

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