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My apologies but the URL was removed by moderators. What I can tell you about defamation in Singapore is listed below for your information. I will summarize but wish to ensure that you have all of the information to make a most informed decision.
Defamation has 3 parts under Singapore law, the statement must be untrue, it must be about the plaintiff, and it must be published. Proving falsity of the statement is on you as the plaintiff. The other side has defenses such as justification (in other words the statements are true), fair comment (that it was opinion only, rather than fact), and privilege (specific exceptions which likely do not apply other than if you were involved in a conversation since additional statements would likely be waived). Please let me know how else I can assist.DEFAMATION
21.7.1 The objectives of the tort of defamation are, on the one hand, to protect personal reputation and, on the other, to ensure that the right of free speech and public communication are not unduly compromised. Within the tort of defamation, these competing interests and rights have to be judiciously balanced.
21.7.2 There are two forms of defamation: libel (words in permanent form) and slander (words in temporal or transient form). Libel is actionable per se without proof of special damage whilst slander would require such proof, unless specific common law and statutory exceptions apply. For example, special damage is not required to be proved in respect of words calculated to disparage the plaintiff in any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on at the time of the publication (see section 5 of the Defamation Act).
21.7.3 Apart from the civil tort of defamation, section 499 of the Penal Code provides for the offence of criminal defamation. For the prosecution of such an offence, it must be shown that the accused made the publication with the intention to harm the reputation of the defamed person, or knows or has reason to believe that such harm would result. The focus of this section is, however, on the civil tort of defamation.
The Elements of the Cause of Action
21.7.4 The three main requirements for a cause of action under the tort of defamation are as follows:
(a) The statement must be defamatory in nature;
(b) The statement must refer to the plaintiff; and
(c) The statement must be published.
(a) Defamatory in Nature
21.7.5 A statement is defamatory in nature if it tends to (i) lowers the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, or (ii) cause the plaintiff to be shunned or avoided; or (iii) expose the plaintiff to hatred, contempt or ridicule. This is based on the objective reasonable man test. The judge determines whether the test is satisfied in a particular case upon hearing the evidence adduced at the trial. There are no jury trials in Singapore.
21.7.6 In terms of construction, a statement may be defamatory in two ways: (i) via the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used or as may be reasonably inferred from the words; and (ii) by way of true or legal innuendo. True innuendo arises from words which appear innocuous, but may be understood to be disparaging of the plaintiff by third parties who have knowledge of special facts which are not generally known. To support a cause of action based on true innuendo, the plaintiff will have to plead those special facts known to such third parties to whom the statement has been published.
(b) Reference to Plaintiff
21.7.7 The plaintiff must show that the third party would reasonably understand the defamatory words to refer to the former. The intention of the defendant to defame the plaintiff is not a prerequisite. Thus, the defamation action may still succeed notwithstanding that the defendant did not intend to refer to the plaintiff, but to some other person or even a fictitious character bearing the same name.
21.7.8 Apart from natural persons, legal persons such as incorporated bodies (including companies) and some unincorporated bodies (for example, societies registered under the Societies Act, Cap 311, 1985 Rev Ed with the capacity to sue and be sued in its own name) may also bring defamation actions against persons who have made defamatory statements adversely affecting their commercial, trading or governing reputations.
21.7.9 In class or group defamation actions, the issue is whether the defamatory statement, though targeted at a class or group, is nonetheless reasonably understood by the reasonable third party to refer to the individual claimant(s). To ascertain whether such reference exists, criteria such as the group size, the generality and extravagance of the defamatory statement and other factors may be taken into consideration.
21.7.10 The defamatory statement must have been communicated to third parties who would reasonably understand the statement to be defamatory of the plaintiff. Thus, the communication of the defamatory statement to the plaintiff alone would not be sufficient.
Defences: (a) Justification
21.7.11 The plaintiff is not required to prove that the defamatory statement is false. Instead, the defendant may establish the defence of justification by proving that the defamatory statement is true in substance and in fact. Where the allegedly defamatory statement is a comment, both the facts on which the comment is based and the comment itself must be substantiated. Similarly, where an innuendo is pleaded, both the statement and the innuendo have to be justified. Particulars of the statement(s) of fact and the true facts relied upon by the defendant must be pleaded (Order 78 Rule 3(2), Rules of Court). The defendant is not required to substantiate every charge so long as the unsubstantiated charges do not materially injure the plaintiff’s reputation (see section 8 of the Defamation Act). The defence of justification normally constitutes a complete defence against the plaintiff’s claims.
(b) Fair Comment
21.7.12 To succeed in the defence of fair comment, the defendant has to show that
(i) the words complained of are in the nature of a comment (that is, an expression of opinion as opposed to facts);
(ii) the comment is based on true facts – it is not necessary to prove the truth of all allegations of facts but only those facts alleged or referred to in the defamatory words which form the basis of the opinion (see section 9 of the Defamation Act);
(iii) the comment is fair, that is, it must be an honestly-held opinion of a fair-minded person though some allowance may be given for prejudices and exaggeration; and
(iv) the comment relates to a matter of public interest, that is, a matter which the public at large may legitimately be interested in or concerned with.
21.7.13 The defence of fair comment will not succeed if the defendant’s comments are motivated by malice. An opinion is made maliciously if it is shown that the defendent did not genuinely hold the view he expressed. Actuation by spite, animosity, intent to injure, intent to arouse controversy or other motivation, whatever it may be, even if it is the dominant or sole motive, does not of itself
defeat the defence (see paragraph 21.7.14
21.7.14 The next defence against the plaintiff’s claim in defamation is based on the concept of privilege. There are two types of privilege: absolute and qualified privilege. Absolute privilege cannot be defeated by the plaintiff’s proof that the defendant’s statements were motivated by malice. On the other hand, qualified privilege can be defeated by proof of malice. A statement is made maliciously if it was actuated by dominant improper motive(s). In addition, a statement which is made without belief in its truth or recklessly (that is, with indifference to its truth or falsity) is one that is published with malice.
21.7.15 Absolute privilege arises in the following situations or circumstances:
(i) Parliamentary proceedings – the Members of Parliament are conferred immunity from both civil and criminal actions in respect of defamatory statements made in the course of parliamentary proceedings (see section 6 of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act, Cap 217, 2000 Rev Ed). Similarly, the reports, papers and journals relating to the proceedings the publication of which is authorised by Parliament are immune from suit (see section 7 of the Parliament (Privileges, Immunities and Powers) Act).
(ii) Judicial proceedings – immunity is conferred on the judges, counsel, witnesses and parties in respect of statements made in the course of or for the purposes of judicial proceedings, including proceedings conducted by tribunals and bodies recognised by law and acting judicially. The fair, accurate and contemporaneous reports of judicial proceedings which are publicly heard are also absolutely privileged (section 11 of the Defamation Act). This privilege extends to a ‘fair and bona fide’ comment on such report.
(iii) Executive matters – this generally covers communications made by ministers and civil servants relating to state affairs.
21.7.16 The defence of qualified privilege arises in the following instances:
(i) Where the defendant has an interest or duty to communicate information and the third party has the corresponding interest or duty to receive the information – for instance, communications made by solicitors for the purposes of advancing clients’ interests and communications between employers and employees in relation to work matters are ordinarily accorded qualified privilege.
(ii) Where the defendant makes a statement with a view to protect his or her self-interests (such as when he
or she is responding to accusations), such statements are privileged to the extent that they are published bona fide as well as relevant and necessary to protect such interests.
(iii) Where reports of parliamentary and judicial proceedings are fair and accurate, qualified privilege arises at common law (that is, outside the scope of the statutory provisions). Newspaper reports of parliamentary and judicial proceedings in the Commonwealth are also accorded qualified privilege statutorily (section 12 of the Defamation Act).
(d) Innocent Dissemination
21.7.17 The defence of innocent dissemination is generally available to intermediaries such as retail vendors, libraries and delivery agents. To avail of such a defence, the intermediary who participated in the distribution of the defamatory statements must show that he or she did not know that the publication was libellous, the circumstances or work could not have alerted the defendant to the libellous content and that such ignorance was not due to his or her negligence.
(e) Offer of Amends
21.7.18 The Offer of Amends is a procedure which permits a defendant to ward off a potential defamation action (or to procure, if the action has already commenced, its discontinuation thereof). The defendant has to first show that he or she has ‘innocently’ defamed another person and exercised all reasonable care in relation to the publication. The defendant must also offer to make a public apology and to take reasonably practicable steps to inform the persons who have been distributed with the copies of the publication that the contents are defamatory of the aggrieved party. The Offer of Amends constitutes a defence against any defamation action by the aggrieved party. If the offer is accepted by the aggrieved party and its terms are complied with by the defendant, the aggrieved party is precluded from suing the defendant in respect of the defamatory publication (see section 7 of the Defamation Act).
(f) Assent by Plaintiff
21.7.19 Where the plaintiff had clearly and unequivocally assented to the publication of the defamatory statement, that constitutes a valid defence to the defamation action.
21.7.20 A plaintiff who has successfully established a cause of action in defamation against which there are no valid defences may obtain (a) monetary damages; and/or (b) injunctions restraining the publication, and/or (c) in exceptional circumstances, injunctions mandating that the defendant withdraw the defamatory statement.
21.7.21 Damages are awarded to vindicate the reputation of the plaintiff, provide consolation for the distress and hurt suffered by the plaintiff and to repair the damage to the plaintiff's reputation. The gravity of the statement, the standing of the plaintiff, the extent of the publication and the effect of the publication on the plaintiff are factors to be taken into consideration for ascertaining the quantum of the damages. The court also takes into account the intended deterrent effect against the defendant. The awards in personal injury cases do not provide a helpful guide in ascertaining the quantum of damages for defamation. The plaintiff has to prove that he or she suffered special damage, except in cases of libel or certain forms of slander (see Section 21.7.2 above). Whilst the principles of causation and remoteness are applicable in defamation, the quantification of special damages is not, however, an exact science.
21.7.22 Aggravated damages may be awarded in appropriate cases. Aggravated damages, which are compensatory in nature, may be awarded in respect of the additional injury caused by the defendant’s conduct or bad motives. For purposes of ascertaining damages, the plaintiff is required to give full particulars in the statement of claim of the details of any conduct by the defendant which has allegedly increased the injury suffered (Order 78 Rule 3(3A), Rules of Court). The amounts for both general compensatory and aggravated damages (if any) are awarded to the plaintiff in one lump sum, though a breakdown of the respective sums should be provided.
21.7.23 Exemplary or punitive damages are less common. Nonetheless, exemplary damages may be awarded as a deterrent measure where the defendant had published the defamatory statement in the expectation of profit or gain and was aware that the publication was untrue.
21.7.24 The defendant may make or offer an apology with a view to mitigating damages (see section 10 of the Defamation Act). Similarly, an undertaking by the defendant not to republish would generally go towards the mitigation of damages.
21.7.25 Injunctions are usually granted to prevent the future publication of defamatory materials only where such further publication is reasonably apprehended. The courts are generally more cautious of issuing interlocutory injunctions, and will do so only where it is clear that the words complained of were libellous and no defence could possibly apply.
21.7.26 With the advent of technology, globalisation and rise in the usage of the Internet, defamation in cyberspace is a real issue today. This problem, though not unique to Singapore, can have a significant impact considering the high proportion of Internet usage within the country for private, commercial and public purposes.
Internet Service Providers
21.7.27 With respect to the role of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), section 10 of the Electronic Transactions Act protects an ISP from liability arising from the making, publication, dissemination or distribution of third party materials, if the ISP were merely providing access to such materials. A third party refers, in this context, to a person over which the ISP has no effective control.
Conflicts of Laws
21.7.28 Defamation on the Internet also poses conflicts of law issues, particularly in relation to jurisdiction and choice of law. (On Conflicts of Laws, see Chapter 6)