Less than one day after announcing to the whole world that it would ‘vigorously’ resist the demands by Mr Lee Hsien Loong to ‘protect freedom of expression in cyberspace’, embattled socio-political blog TR Emeritus did a stunning U-turn and back down.
Mr Lee Hsien Yang, the chairman of listed conglomerate Fraser and Neave (F&N), has sent a lawyer’s letter to Mr Richard Wan, TRE’s official representative in Singapore on Tuesday, asking the site to remove an allegedly defamatory comment on its site about him.
Mr Tan Chuan Thye from Stamford Law, who is acting on behalf of Mr Lee told TRE in the letter that a netizen had left a defamatory remark about Mr Lee in the comments section for one of its articles late last month.
The comment was found on an article about allegations concerning Hougang MP Yaw Shin Leong’s personal life which was published on 30 January.
TR Emeritus initially proclaimed it would defend itself:
“TRE Editors felt that acceding to all the demands of Mr Lee Hsien Yang will seriously make running TRE site difficult in future. Hence, we are seeking legal counsel this time.”
However, in a posting yesterday, TR Emeritus said it has removed the defamatory comment from the site:
“We acknowledge and regret that a defamatory comment about Mr Lee Hsien Yang was placed on our website by a netizen. We had and have no intention to defame Mr Lee. We have removed the said defamatory comment from our website.”
The final decision followed a meeting between Mr Lee’s lawyers from Stamford Law, and a TRE editor, Mr Richard Wan, represented by Senior Counsel Kannan Ramesh of Tan Kok Quan Partnership. It is not known if TR Emeritus revealed the identity of the commentator to Mr Lee’s lawyers.
While questions remained on who is footing its legal fees, the increased traffic to the site as a result of the free media publicity given to it is likely to earn sufficient advertising revenue for TR Emeritus to cover its ‘losses’.
The negative publicity surrounding the site is unlikely to deter Singaporeans from reading TR Emeritus. On the contrary, it will encourage those who are previously ignorant of its existence to visit it, thereby raising its readership and profile in the process. Publicity in any form is good publicity for a site lacking credibility and respectability.
Meanwhile, the beleaguered Singapore-based editor of TR Emeritus Richard Wan who had a busy week sorting out it legal wrangles, should be mentally prepared to receive more lawyer’s letters on behalf of its foreign owner and editors in the next few weeks to come.