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Man who posted doctored headline on CHC case makes public apology

SINGAPORE – The man who posted a doctored newspaper headline on social media that suggested a Member of Parliament (MP) had influenced the outcome of the City Harvest Church case has made a public apology.

A screen capture of Mr Neo Aik Chau's public apology on his Facebook page. Photo: Facebook

A screen capture of Mr Neo Aik Chau's public apology on his Facebook page. Photo: Facebook

SINGAPORE – The man who posted a doctored newspaper headline on social media that suggested a Member of Parliament had influenced the outcome of the City Harvest Church case has made a public apology.

Mr Neo Aik Chau first posted an apology on his Facebook page on Tuesday (Feb 6) afternoon. The apology, written in Mandarin, was reposted on several other online forums.

“I was wrong! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!” Mr Neo wrote. “All (I wanted) was fairness and justice!

“I just spoke my mind without thinking too much. I’m sorry! I swear not to post anything like this! Forgive me!”

He had published two Facebook posts last Friday and Saturday. They contained a doctored image that resembled the front page of Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao.

Instead of Wanbao’s headline, “Outdated law ‘saved’ the accused from harsher penalties”, the doctored image read: “PAP lawyer ‘saved’ the accused from harsher penalties.”

It was posted at least twice on a public 4,548-member Facebook group with a Chinese name that means “Policy Discussion Forum”. The posts were shared at least 23 times.

The fake headline was referring to People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Edwin Tong, who is the lawyer of City Harvest Church founder Kong Hee, who was among six former church leaders convicted and jailed for misappropriation of church funds.

(Above) The original headline of the article said "outdated laws 'saved'" the six from longer jail sentences. The doctored version said "a PAP lawyer 'saved'" them. Photo: Facebook

Kong, 53, is currently serving a three-and-a-half year jail sentence, after the High Court reduced the imprisonment terms of all six former church leaders in April last year.

Responding to TODAY's queries on Mr Neo's apology, the Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) said it is "studying the matter".

During his ministerial statement in Parliament on Tuesday, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam told the House that the AGC is investigating Mr Neo’s posts as a possible case of contempt of court.

“(The perpetrators made it) look as if a mass-circulation newspaper had done so, probably to give more credit to the headline…The suggestion from the faked title, is that the PAP MP was responsible for an unfair, unjust outcome. And the courts had let off the defendants lightly because of him,” said Mr Shanmugam.

“AGC’s view is that this is a case of contempt, by scandalising the courts,” he said, adding that perpetrators will be dealt with “in accordance with the law”.

Launching an attack on Mr Tong is part of a “mob mentality to hound the lawyers”, added Mr Shanmugam.

“The fake headline (seeks) to intimidate (lawyers) into not acting in cases which the mob disapproves of. It’s quite shameful…I cannot see how any reasonable person will justify such faking as a legitimate expression of free speech. I have asked the police to take a serious view of those who scandalise the courts.”

In a statement on Monday night, the AGC said it has written to Mr Neo. When TODAY checked the group on Monday evening, the posts had already been removed.

“Contempt of court in its various forms harms the proper administration of justice in Singapore,” the AGC said. “AGC will take firm action against contempt of court, including institution of committal proceedings in appropriate instances.”

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