Defamation Lawyers in Singapore
Defamation is a statement that injures a third party’s reputation.
The tort of defamation includes both libel (written statements) and slander (spoken statements).
The term “libel” is derived from the latin word “libellus” which means “small book or booklet”.
How to Successfully Sue a Defamation Lawsuit in Singapore
To win a defamation case, a plaintiff must show four things:
- a false statement purporting to be fact (this can be spoken or published);
- publication or communication of that statement to a third person (if it is not published to the recipient, this is insufficient);
- fault; and
- damages, or some harm caused to the person or entity who is subject of the statement. Such harm is most of the time reputational harm, which could lead to financial loss or loss of opportunities.
Proof of Damages in Defamation
In a claim for libel, damage is presumed to have occurred and it is not necessary for the plaintiff to prove any actual damage to his reputation. In slander, however, damage is generally not presumed and therefore slander is not actionable per se unless the plaintiff can show that he has suffered actual damage. This in many instances is usually extremely difficult to prove. There are four exceptions to the rule that slander is not actionable per se.
- where the words impute a crime for which the punishment that the plaintiff may be subject to is physical in nature, for example, imprisonment;
- where the words impute to the plaintiff a contagious or infectious disease;
- where the words are calculated to disparage the plaintiff in any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of publication; and
- where the words impute unchastity or adultery to any woman or girl.
Quantification of Damages for Defamation
In assessing the appropriate damages to be awarded on a case of defamation, the following factors would be taken by the Court into consideration:
- the nature of the defamation – how serious and offensive the defamatory words were;
- the standing of the parties – the reputations of the plaintiff and the defendant are important and the Court has to factor this in;
- the mode and extent of publication of the defamatory statements – any statements which are published to the public, especially on the internet, would attract a larger amount of damages. Statements published to one or two persons would be less serious;
- the conduct of the parties – whether the statements were repeated, and whether the defendant was recalcitrant and refused to apologise are important factors showing that aggravated damages are payable; and
- the effect of the defamation on the plaintiff – if the plaintiff can show that he or she suffered financial and/or loss of reputation, the Court would award a greater amount of damages.
Damages for Defamation
We set out below some defamation cases heard in the Singapore High Court since 1989 where awards for general damages have been awarded to defendants.
Year Name of Case Citation Damages Awarded
1989 Lee Kuan Yew v Davies & Ors  SLR 1063 S$230,000
1992 Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin v Lee Kuan Yew  2 SLR 310 S$260,000
1994 Overseas-Chinese Banking Corp Ltd v Wright  3 SLR 760 S$50,000
1995 Sin Heak Hin Pte Ltd & Anor v Yuasa Battery  3 SLR 590 S$100,000
1995 Chiam See Tong v Xin Zhang Jiang  3 SLR 196 S$50,000
1996 Chiam See Tong v Ling How Doong & Ors  1 SLR 648 S$120,000
1997 Tang Liang Hong v Lee Kuan Yew & Anor  1 SLR 97 S$60,000 – S$270,000
1998 Goh Chok Tong v Jeyaretnam Joshua Benjamin  3 SLR 337 S$100,000
1999 A Balakrishnan & Ors v Nirumalan K Pillay & Ors  3 SLR 22 S$30,000
1999 Cristofori Music Pte Ltd v Robert Piano Co Pte Ltd  3 SLR 503 S$50,000
2001 Arul Chandran v Chew Chin Aik Victor JP  1 SLR 505 S$150,000
2003 Ei-Nets Ltd and another v Yeo Nai Meng  SGCA 48 S$80,000
2005 Lee Kuan Yew v Chee Soon Juan  SGHC 2 S$200,000
2005 Goh Chok Tong v Chee Soon Juan  SGHC 3 S$300,000
2017 Yap Sing Lee v Lim Tat  SGDC 233 S$24,000
2018 Ma Kar Sui Anthony v Yap Sing Lee  SGHC 30 S$35,000
If you have been defamed, you need to consult a competent lawyer to advise you on your options to recover damages, and/or put a stop to the defamatory actions to protect you or your business reputation.