Li Shengwu, the eldest son of Lee Hsien Yang, said that a social media posting that he made in July was intended as a criticism of the “litigious nature” of the Singapore government and its subsequent effect on media freedoms, and not on the judiciary.
“It is not my intent to attack the Singapore judiciary or to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. Any criticism I made is of the Singapore government’s litigious nature, and its use of legal rules and actions to stifle the free press,” said Li in a Facebook post on Friday (4 August).
Li was referring to a private Facebook post he had made in July. Linking to a Wall Street Journal article about the Lee family feud, Li said then, “The Singapore government is very litigious and has a pliant court system. This constrains what the international media can usually report.”
The 32-year-old, who is also the nephew of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, said he had been sent a “threatening letter” by the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) that called the post an attack on the Singapore judiciary and in contempt of court. In response, he had decided to amend the original post to avoid any “misunderstanding”.
He explained that his intention was to convey the restrictions on international media in their reporting on the Lee saga, and the different legal rules with respect to press freedom in Singapore as compared with countries such as the United States.
“There is also flexibility in Singapore’s defamation laws – they just have different boundaries from the defamation laws in other jurisdictions. The government makes use of these legal rules to restrict unfavourable reporting,” he added.
Li noted that an “unauthorised screenshot” of the post had been taken and then published by several media outlets, including Singapore mainstream media.
“No one who published or republished my private post had approached me to clarify what I meant. Curiously, the Singapore media had time to seek statements from a Senior Minister of State and the AGC, but did not even do basic fact-checking – they inaccurately reported that the post was taken down, because they did not bother to contact me.”