SINGAPORE: WSJ editor faces contempt

Attorney-general holds 'Wall Street Journal' editor ultimately responsible for published articles that "contained passages that scandalize the Singapore judiciary"

The Straits Times
Friday, March 13, 2009

By Zakir Hussain

THE Government is taking a senior editor of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to court, accusing her of being in contempt of court in three articles published last year.

In the High Court on Friday, Justice Tay Yong Kwang granted an application by the Attorney-General to start proceedings against Ms Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the New York-based financial daily's editorial page.

In court documents seen by The Straits Times, the AG's Chambers (AGC) said it was initiating proceedings against her for "actions which resulted in the publication and distribution" of the articles in WSJ's sister paper, WSJ Asia.

It said these "contained passages that scandalise the Singapore judiciary."

It added that Ms Kirkpatrick bears the ultimate editorial responsibility for the editorials and opinion section of WSJ Asia.

The AGC's move comes three months after Dow Jones Publishing (Asia), which publishes the WSJ Asia, was found in contempt of court for the same articles, which ran in June and July 2008.

The first article was an editorial on Singapore's democracy, arising out of a hearing in May last year to assess damages that Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan and others had to pay Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew for libel.

The second was a letter from Dr Chee in reply to a rebuttal of that editorial by MM Lee's press secretary.

The third article was another editorial, on the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute's report on the Singapore judiciary.

Last November, Justice Tay found that they alleged bias and lack of independence on the part of the judiciary, among other things.

He fined Dow Jones Publishing (Asia) $25,000 -- the highest meted out for such an offence here. Dow Jones was also ordered to pay costs of $30,000.