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TOC’s Terry Xu and another man to be charged with criminal defamation over article alleging corruption

SINGAPORE — The chief editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC), Mr Terry Xu Yuan Chen, 36, will be charged on Thursday (Dec 13) with criminal defamation for publishing an article in September alleging corruption within the highest ranks of Government.

The chief editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen, Mr Terry Xu Yuan Chen.

The chief editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen, Mr Terry Xu Yuan Chen.

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SINGAPORE — The chief editor of socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC), Mr Terry Xu Yuan Chen, 36, will be charged on Thursday (Dec 13) with criminal defamation for publishing an article in September alleging corruption within the highest ranks of Government.

The alleged author of the article, Mr De Costa Daniel Augustin, 35, will also be charged with criminal defamation. He faces an additional charge of unauthorised access to computer material, said the police in a news release on Wednesday.

Both charges carry a jail sentence of up to two years, a fine, or both.

Mr De Costa is believed to have logged into the email account of someone called “Willy Sum” and sent his article, titled “The Take Away from Seah Kian Ping’s Facebook Post”, to TOC. According to the police, Mr Xu published the article – which misspelled Member of Parliament Seah Kian Peng’s name – without verifying the identity of the author.

The article, which was taken down last month, referred to comments by Mr Seah and Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam on some Singaporean activists who met Malaysian Prime Minister in late August. Its author claimed there was “corruption at the highest echelons”.

The Info-communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA) lodged a police report on Oct 5. The police searched the houses of Mr Xu and Willy Sum on Nov 20, and found evidence suggesting that the article was not written by the latter.

“The investigations suggest that De Costa had sent the article to The Online Citizen using ‘Willy Sum’’s email account without the consent of ‘Willy Sum’,” said the police, who did not elaborate on whether both men knew each other.

Officers arrived at De Costa’s home at 2.50pm on Nov 20 and spotted him leaving for a 3.45pm flight, which he eventually did not board.

De Costa “facilitated a search at his house”, said the police.

The police also responded to allegations that officers had "over-reached" by seizing Mr Xu and Mr De Costa’s electronic equipment during investigations. “This was necessary to secure and preserve evidence. The seizure of the electronic equipment from Xu and De Costa uncovered evidence pointing towards the identity of the true author of the article,” the police said.

Regarding a post apparently written by Mr De Costa’s mother that said the police unreasonably prevented him from leaving for an overseas trip, the police said they had to act quickly to obtain information.

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The Online Citizen defamation jail IMDA

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