SINGAPORE: The editor of The Online Citizen Terry Xu said on Wednesday (Sep 4) that he will not comply with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s request to remove an article from the website and to take down a Facebook post.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had on Sunday issued a letter to Mr Xu, after The Online Citizen published an article on its website and Facebook page on Aug 15.
The letter, signed off by the press secretary to the Prime Minister, said both the news outlet's article and Facebook post had repeated "several false allegations" against Mr Lee on the issue of the 38 Oxley Road property.
“PM Lee asks that you remove both immediately, and publish within three days, ie by Sep 4, 2019, a full and unconditional apology, plus an undertaking not to publish any similar allegations, prominently on your website and on your Facebook timeline,” the letter read.
The article was taken down on Sunday hours after the letter was sent to Mr Xu, but the Facebook post remained online.
On Wednesday, Mr Xu said he would not comply with the requests. A check on Wednesday evening showed that the article has been restored to The Online Citizen website.
In his letter to Prime Minister, the chief editor apologised for any possible misinterpretation of some parts of the article and Facebook post, and said the intent of the article was "not to raise doubts or misunderstandings about the technicalities surrounding the allegations".
“I am of the opinion that the contents of the article are not defamatory," he said in his letter.
"Instead, in light of the public statements emanated from members of your own family, who, presumably, would have been privy to the events that the article refers to, and the issues of public interest that arise, I believe that the contents of the article constitute fair comment.
“For avoidance of doubt, I was merely republishing the words uttered by your siblings.”
The TOC article in question repeated false allegations that were previously made by Mr Lee's sister Lee Wei Ling, said the Prime Minister's press secretary Chang Li Lin on Sunday.
"In particular, they allege that PM Lee misled his father, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, into thinking that the 38 Oxley Road property had been gazetted by the Singapore Government, and that it was futile for Mr Lee Kuan Yew to keep his direction to demolish it," Ms Chang said in her letter.
"PM Lee thereby allegedly caused Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had originally wanted to demolish the house, to consider other alternatives to demolition, and to change his will to bequeath the house to PM Lee."
The letter also said both the TOC article and the post had made other false allegations, including that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had removed PM Lee as an executor and trustee of his will after it was revealed that the Oxley Road property was not gazetted.
The letter stated that should Mr Xu decide not to accede to Mr Lee's requests, "PM Lee will have no choice but to hand the matter over to his lawyers to sue to enforce his full rights in law".
Mr Xu replied on Wednesday: "Although I do fear that the cost stemming from the possible legal suit from you may be hefty, that is a price I am willing to pay to not only uphold my principles, but also to uphold my obligations to Singapore and my fellow Singaporeans."