SINGAPORE: A Singaporean blogger said he had crowdfunded almost USD 100,000 that he was ordered to pay as damages for defaming the prime minister by sharing an article on Facebook. Leong Sze Hian was sued by Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong after sharing the piece, which linked Lee to the money-laundering scandal at state fund 1MDB in Malaysia.
Critics say that the case is the latest example of the government seeking to silence dissent online in the tightly regulated city-state. A court last month found in Lee's favour and ordered the blogger to pay the prime minister SGD 133,000 (USD 99,000) plus costs, which are yet to be determined.
Leong launched an online fundraising drive and said late Sunday more than 2,000 people had contributed the full amount after 11 days. "We hit 133k, thanks to all Singaporeans. It's thanks to your help that we had the courage to face them," he wrote on Facebook.
The article that Leong shared, originally published on a Malaysian news portal, alleged that Lee was the target of an investigation in neighbouring Malaysia over the 1MDB state fund. Billions of dollars were looted from the investment vehicle in a scandal that involved Malaysia's former leader Najib Razak and his inner circle.
Lee took the stand at the start of the trial in October and accused Leong of making "malicious and baseless" allegations that had undermined the government's "integrity and honesty". Singapore's leaders have frequently turned to the courts to take on critics, ranging from political opponents to foreign media outlets, and insist such action is necessary to protect their reputations.