Saturday 27 July 2013

Contempt of court action against cartoonist

Man behind online comic strip accused of 'scandalising judiciary'
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 26 Jul 2013

THE Attorney-General has taken legal action against cartoonist Leslie Chew Peng Ee, the man behind online comic strip Demon-cratic Singapore, for contempt of court.

The High Court has allowed its application for an order of committal against the 37-year-old, who is accused of "scandalising the judiciary" in comics he posted on Facebook.

An order of committal is the typical procedure for instituting action against contempt of court.

If given, the order will find Chew guilty of contempt and set out the punishment, which could either be a jail term, a fine or both. The punishment is left to the discretion of the court.

Explaining its move yesterday, the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) said: "The present legal proceedings are aimed at protecting the administration of justice in the Republic of Singapore and upholding the integrity of one of our key public institutions."

On Tuesday the AGC asked the High Court for permission to apply for an order of committal against the self-employed Chew on five comics he had posted on Facebook. The High Court gave the nod for four. One was posted on July 20, 2011, and the rest last year, on Jan 3, Jan 5 and June 16.

On the Facebook page which he started in May 2011, Chew claims Demon-cratic Singapore is the "full name" of a fictional country, "often referred to as Singapore for short". It also says the series is "a totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events".

But the strips are said to bear a strong resemblance to actual situations here. The comics singled out allege preferred treatment by a kangaroo court to foreigners and high-profile personalities.

In 2010, Briton Alan Shadrake, 78, was sentenced to six weeks' jail and fined $20,000 for saying in his book that Singapore courts bowed to pressure from foreign governments, favoured the rich and privileged, and were used as a tool by the ruling party to muzzle political dissent.

Chew's brush with the law first took place in April this year when he was investigated for sedition.

A member of the public had made a police report about a "racially insensitive" cartoon he posted on March 27 this year, about the Malay population.

The AGC said the sedition issue is still under consideration. The police said investigations are ongoing on the matter of sedition.

But before the police report, the AGC had written to him last December about another cartoon that "scandalises our courts through allegations and imputations that are scurrilous and false". The cartoon was not taken down and no apology was made.

Chew's case will be heard in the High Court on Aug 12. He is co-represented by lawyers M. Ravi of LF Violet Netto and Choo Zheng Xi of Peter Low LLC.

Mr Ravi said papers were served on his office yesterday. He is taking instructions from his client. "To succeed in our defence, we must show there is no real risk in the public confidence of the independence of the judiciary."

* Cartoonist apologises, AGC drops contempt of court action
By Bryna Singh, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2013

THE cartoonist accused of scandalising the judiciary in a series of comics he posted on Facebook has apologised.

In a statement released by his lawyers yesterday, Mr Leslie Chew Peng Ee said he "accepted that his comic strips had misrepresented to the public that the Singapore judiciary administers differential treatment to individuals based on their nationality, social status and political affiliation, and that there have been specific criminal cases in which decisions were made by the Singapore judiciary on the basis of the above factors rather than on the merits".

The four comic strips in question were posted online between July 2011 and June last year.

Mr Chew said he has since taken down the comics and accompanying comments, and will undertake not to repost them, as well as not to put up any other post or comic strip that amounts to contempt of court.

"It was never my intention to scandalise the judiciary. I realise my mistake and I want to make amends for it," he added. "I draw to make people laugh, and I want to continue with my work within the boundaries of the law."

"All members of the public should note that the Attorney-General's Chambers will take firm action to protect the administration of justice in Singapore, and uphold the integrity of the judiciary," said a spokesman.

Mr Chew's case was due to be heard next Monday. His lawyers M. Ravi of LF Violet Netto and Choo Zheng Xi of Peter Low LLC said this is "the best possible outcome for all parties involved".

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