SINGAPORE: The editor of the now defunct website The Online Citizen (TOC) was jailed on Thursday April 21 for three weeks for criminal defamation.
Terry Xu Yuanchen, 39, was found guilty in November last year of defaming members of Singapore’s Cabinet by approving the publication of a letter on September 4, 2018 alleging “corruption at the highest levels”.
The author of the letter, Daniel De Costa Augustin, 38, was sentenced to three months and three weeks in prison. He will begin serving his sentence on May 4.
De Costa was found guilty of a similar charge of criminal defamation and a second charge of unauthorized access to an email account not belonging to him, which he used to submit the article.
On September 4, 2018, De Costa sent an email titled “PAP MP apologizes to SDP” to thecitizenonline [at] gmail.com from a Chinatown Internet cafe, with the intention that it be posted on the TOC website.
On the same day, Xu approved the publication of the email sent by a person named Willy Sum, titled “The Take Away From Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook Post”. Mr. Seah Kian Peng’s name was misspelled.
The defamatory article read: “We have seen multiple political and foreign mistakes, tampering with the Constitution, corruption at the highest levels and an apparent lack of respect from foreign powers since the disappearance of Founding Father Lee Kuan Yew. “.
De Costa used an email account belonging to Mr. Sim Wee Lee to submit the article to TOC as Willy Sum.
Mr Sim previously testified that he met De Costa while walking his dogs in 2005 or 2006, and they became friends. He allowed De Costa to use his email account to help with his bankruptcy and housing issues.
He later discovered that De Costa had sent emails criticizing government agents without his permission.
Xu and De Costa both went to trial last year to challenge their charges and were sentenced in November 2021.
For criminal defamation, Xu and De Costa could have been imprisoned for up to two years and fined. For unauthorized computer access, De Costa could also have been jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$5,000 or both.
The TOC website, founded in 2006, was taken offline in September last year after the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) suspended its class license for repeatedly failing to comply with its obligation legal to declare all funding sources.
The license was later revoked by the authorities.
In December, the High Court rejected a bid by the website to overturn IMDA’s orders to shut down its Chinese-language website and social media accounts.