[JURIST] The New York Times (NYT) [media website] on Wednesday agreed to pay a total of $114,000 in damages to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his father, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew [official profiles], for an article that may have implied that the current prime minister attained his position as a result of their relationship. The paper also apologized [text] to the two leaders. The offending article, written by International Herald Tribune [media website] contributor Phillip Bowring on February 15, was titled "All in the Family," and identified several political dynasties in Asia. In its apology, the NYT wrote:
In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring … included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.
Bowring's article contained a single reference to Singapore: "The list of Asian countries with governments headed by the offspring or spouses of former leaders is striking. … Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kuan Yew's son." The newspaper removed the article, but it remains available [Khaleej Times text] from other sources.
Singapore leaders have sought damages against media organizations for alleged defamation before. Last March, a judge for the Supreme Court of Singapore [official website] ruled that a Wall Journal Journal Asia [media website] editor was in contempt of court and personally liable for damages [JURIST report] for publishing two editorials and a letter that criticized the impartiality of the city-state's judiciary.