Terry Xu, chief editor of The Online Citizen Asia (TOC Asia), has published a public appeal for donations.
Facing a number of legal tussles, Xu said the contributions would go towards "further developing what [he has] been doing for independent media in Singapore and the region in the coming year".
In a Facebook post on Nov. 18, Xu said he is currently involved in a civil defamation suit with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, along with being charged for alleged criminal defamation of the Singapore Cabinet.
He has also filed appeals against Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) correction directions.
"While I am very fortunate to have lawyers from Eugene Thuraisingam LLP, Carson Law Chambers and Peter Low & Choo LLC to represent me in my cases pro-bono, I still face expenses from the court filing fees and miscellaneous cost involved in the process.
Just POFMA appeals alone, brings my total legal filing fees and other expenses close to $10,000."
According to The Straits Times (ST), filing a court appeal under POFMA costs S$200.
There is also no charge for the first three days of court hearing.
Lawsuit of alleged defamation against PM Lee
Xu added that he is expecting to incur a "hefty sum" for expenses related to the PM Lee civil defamation suit, scheduled for Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.
ST reported on Sep. 5, 2019 that PM Lee sued Xu after an article was posted on the website and Facebook page of The Online Citizen on Aug. 15, 2019.
The article, "PM Lee’s wife, Ho Ching weirdly shares article on cutting ties with family members", commented on a Facebook post by Ho and her relationship with PM Lee’s siblings, Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling.
PM Lee’s press secretary Chang Li Lin said in a letter to Xu that the article and post repeat false allegations against PM Lee previously made by Lee Wei Ling, in addition to other false allegations.
The article can still be seen on TOC Asia, and it was recently updated in Sep. 2020.
Appeal for support for TOC
Previously, Xu said he would represent himself in court for this lawsuit instead of engaging a lawyer.
In a Facebook post on Sep. 10, 2019, he said:
"As a result of this decision, there will be no crowdfunding for my legal defence as I do not have to pay any lawyer fees and court filing fees are still manageable. Please do not donate to any online or offline fund raising campaign created in name of my case."
Instead, he asked his supporters to sign up as a paid subscriber to TOC to help keep it afloat.
You can see the full Facebook post below:
Engaged lawyers after representing himself in lead-up to trial hearing
However, Xu apparently changed his mind.
On Oct. 15, 2020, Xu said on Facebook that he was facing "increasing difficulty in coping with the legal technicalities".
"As I am concerned that the PM lawyers will make technicalities an issue for the trial, I am therefore appointing a counsel to represent me from here onwards.
Mr Lim Tean, of Carson Law Chambers will be acting as my legal representative."
You can see the full Facebook post on Oct. 15 below:
Lawsuit of alleged defamation against Cabinet
This lawsuit involving PM Lee is not to be confused with the other court case dealing with the alleged criminal defamation of the Cabinet by Xu.
That other lawsuit concerns an article published by TOC on Sep. 4, 2018, which alleged that the Singapore Constitution had been tampered with and that there was alleged corruption at the "highest echelons".
It also criticised the current leadership in Singapore.
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) lodged a police report against TOC and the author of the article, "Willy Sum" (real name Sim Wee Lee), as it had "made serious allegations that undermine the public's confidence in the government's integrity".
According to the police, investigations suggest that a man named Daniel De Costa had written the article in question and sent it to TOC using Willy Sum's email address, without Sum's knowledge.
The police also said that Xu published the article without verifying the identity of the author.
During the trial, on Oct. 30, 2020, De Costa's lawyer M Ravi argued that his client was acting in "good faith" and simply wanted to repeat what PM Lee's siblings had alleged in a statement in 2017, believing it to be true.
Xu said that while the lawsuits are going on, he intends to further develop independent media in Singapore and the region.
He said that TOC Asia is not supported by the Singapore government like other media outlets, and rely on regular support from ordinary citizens and readers to survive and grow.
Xu then added:
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"For those who wish to contribute to the expenses and the development of independent media in the region, please make your transfer to DBS savings 120-694328-7. No declaration of NRIC is needed."
Top image from TOC Asia and Terry Xu's Facebook pages.