Social enterprise cooperative NTUC Foodfare said on Wednesday (21 November) that it will take legal action against socio-political website The Independent Singapore (TISG).
This comes after the website refused to comply with its demands to remove two articles and two Facebook posts sharing those articles, all of which are allegedly defamatory.
The first article, published on Monday, was titled “Elderly hawker allegedly passed away after working 18-hour days to avoid hefty fine when NTUC Foodfare rejected appeal to shorten operating hours”. The second article, also published on the same day, was titled “NTUC Foodfare slaps $3,500 fine on elderly and injured tenant who was unable to operate for a few days”.
The first article had more than 5,100 Facebook shares by 9am on Thursday, while the second had more than 3,000.
Letter asking for apology and retraction
A letter by law firm David Lim & Partners, served on behalf of the cooperative on Tuesday, had asked for an apology and retraction of the articles and Facebook posts by 3pm on Wednesday, on grounds that NTUC Foodfare has been “disparaged and injured in its character and reputation and has suffered considerable hurt, distress and embarrassment”.
NTUC Foodfare also put up a post on its Facebook page about the TISG posts and articles:
In response, TISG posted the demand letter on its website, as well as a note by the site’s publisher Kumaran Pillai saying it needed more time to “investigate the contentions raised”. It added that it had relevant facts to justify its articles.
TISG added that It is “curious” that NTUC Foodfare’s public statements “are somewhat contrary to our findings”. It added that it has sent a lawyer’s letter to NTUC Foodfare, asking for information related to the two articles.
TISG insisted that the articles should remain published “until and otherwise it is proven to be false and baseless by NTUC Foodfare”.
It said in the note’s concluding paragraph. “We can’t go wrong for standing up for what is right. In the hawkers’ plight, we feel the pain of all those who have toiled hours in front of a hot stove so that we can have affordable meals in Singapore. We cannot and will not be cowed by the powers that be. (We) will hold the line in championing the rights of our hawkers, workers and downtrodden.”
Second website to be accused of defamation this week
The Independent Singapore, which was started in 2013, is the second Singapore socio-political website to be accused of defamation this week.
On Tuesday, police said that it seized equipment such as desktop computers and mobile devices from the executive editor of The Online Citizen, after one of its articles “made serious allegations that the Government’s highest officers are corrupt and that the Constitution has been tampered with”.
The article has been removed.