Text of The Straits Times email and attachment
sent to John Harding
May 20, 2003 at 2:08am Arizona Time
|Dear Mr John Harding
It has come to our notice that you are currently posting an article entitled “Cover up? Goh Chok Tong’s Son Conceals SARS?” (the “Article”) in your website known as http://www.escapefromparadise.com/NewFiles/bc.html which is highly defamatory of The Straits Times and Singapore Press Holdings Ltd (the “Company”)
In the ordinary and natural meaning of the words in the Article and by implication and innuendoes, they were understood to mean that :
1. We fabricated and disguised the true facts of the story;
2. We were unprofessional and lack journalistic integrity;
3. We practised political favouritism; and
4. We were dishonest and corrupt in our business activities.
The Article is untrue and constitute a grave and serious libel on the Company and The Straits Times. It is clear that the Article was actuated by malice and calculated to cause severe damage to the goodwill and reputation of the Company and The Straits Times.
Accordingly, we therefore demand the following action by you immediately:
1. Remove the Article from your website upon receipt of this notice;
2. Publish an apology and withdrawal of the Article in the terms provided in the attachment below; and
3. Give the Company and The Straits Times a written undertaking that you will not publish this or similar articles concerning the Company and/or all publications under the Company’s stable.
We shall quantify the damages upon our satisfaction of the actions taken by you as mentioned in the aforesaid paragraph. In the event that you do not act on any of the demands stated by us within 24 hours hereof, we shall commence legal action against you without further ado.
In the meantime, all rights are reserved against you.
(See attached file: APOLOGY.Johnharding.doc)
|The libelous and defamatory email sent me by The Straits Times (ST), is misleading, and full of innuendos. These "implications and innuendos" are used by the ST to fabricate the false conclusions (items 1 through 4) the ST wishes to draw.
Through its email and requested apology, the ST is attempting to entrap me into a position of admitting what is not true. Were I to agree to the ST terms, I would put myself in a position where I would have to defend myself for things I have not done.
Following are my answers to the false implications and innuendos made by the ST.
There was no implication by me that The Straits Times (ST) "fabricated and disguised the true facts of the story." I gave a link to the story to show that there was no inconsistency between my remarks and the story. I make it a point to document this website fully with links.
No comment was made by me that the ST was unprofessional and lacked journalistic integrity. My only comment was the important omission of the fact that Dr. Goh was the son of Singapore's Prime Minister. That was a fair and truthful comment.
Any implication that my remarks implied that the ST practiced political favoritism are non-actionable, legally. Most newspapers have a political point of view. It is telling that the ST is threatening to sue over an article that touches on Prime Minister Goh. There are many more critical postings against the ST on the Internet.
Google reports on May 20, 2003 that in group:soc.culture.singapore there are about 15,700 references posted regarding the ST. Many, if not most of these postings are extremely derogatory. Are you threatening lawsuits over any of those?
No conclusion can be drawn that my remarks implied that the ST was dishonest or corrupt. The ST said it; I didn't.
My concern with SARS in Singapore is important as the incidence of SARS in Singapore is 11 times that of China on a per capita basis.
My intent in drawing attention to matters concerning SARS is to save lives. I would hope that The Straits Times and the Singapore Government share that concern.
The ST has no case against me, and it would appear the newspaper is acting as a surrogate for someone else.
Should the ST take any legal action against me, I will file a countersuit.
The Article entitled COVER UP? GOH CHOK TONG’s SON CONCEALS SARS which has just been removed and expunged from the site was completely untrue and highly defamatory of Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and The Straits Times.
I, John Harding acknowledge that the allegations in the Article were baseless and malicious.
I sincerely regret that much distress and embarrassment has been caused to Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and The Straits Times as a result of the Articles.
I unreservedly apologise to them and undertake not to make further statements to the same or similar effect.
It appears that this apology is an attempt to entrap me into false admissions of facts which are untrue, and for which I could unjustly become legally liable.
I have learned from the deal that Nick Leeson made with Singapore, that Singapore is not to be trusted.
|Second email from The Straits Times to John Harding
From: "Angeline Joyce Lee SP" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: "Cheong Yip Seng" <email@example.com>, "Han Fook Kwang" <firstname.lastname@example.org>, "Patrick Daniel" <email@example.com>, "Ginney Lim ML" <firstname.lastname@example.org>,"Agnes Ng SP" email@example.com
Sent: Thu, 22 May 2003 17:01:05 +0800
Subject: The ¡@Straits Times Threatens to Sue...
Dear Mr John Harding
You say that nothing in your website is untrue. You were wrong to say that Dr Goh Jin Kian attended to the patient. He did not.
All rights are expressly reserved against you.
NOTE: Privileged/Confidential Information may be contained in this message.
If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), you may not copy or deliver this message to anyone. In such case, you should destroy this message and kindly notify the sender by reply email. All opinions, conclusions and other information expressed in this message not of an official nature shall not be deemed as given or endorsed by SPH unless otherwise indicated by an authorised representative independent of this message.
John Harding’s answer to The Straits Times first and second emails.
Sent: Thu, 22 May 2003 11:12:52 -0700
Subject: Re:_The i@Straits Times Threatens to Sue...
Dear Ms. Lee:
I do not understand why you made no mention of Dr. Goh in your email of May 20, 2003. This raises the suspicion that your email of May 20, 2003 was prompted by Dr. Goh, or by is father, PM Goh. It implies that PM Goh reacted out of pique that Dr. Goh was identified as being his son, and that I had revealed Dr. Goh's high position at Parkway Shenton, even though he is only 35 years old.
Others, too have expressed the same suspicion. We have been advised by a prominent Singaporean that your email of May 20, 2003, "has got Goh Chok Tong's and Lee Kuan Yew's pawprints all over it."
You should not have expected my compliance with the "remedial" actions requested by you. By our own admission, your understanding of my Article was arrived at "by implication and innuendoes." Your conclusions are patently wrong, libelous and defamatory.
I have been threatened in a similar arrogant manner by Helen Yeo, even though she is barely mentioned in ESCAPE FROM PARADISE, and has certainly not been defamed by the book. Her letter to me of July 8, 2002, also sent via email, is similar in tone and arrogance to yours of May 20, 2003. A copy of Helen Yeo's letter and my response is at http://www.escapefromparadise.com/NewFiles/hyl.html.
Legally Singapore is a rogue nation because it does not ascribe to the Hague Convention. For me to effect legal service on Helen Yeo requires a "rogatory letter." This letter must be transmitted to the Singapore Judiciary via the U. S. State Department. The legal summons contained in the rogatory letter must then be served on Helen Yeo by a Singapore Judge. I have no faith that any Singapore Judge would serve such a summons on Helen Yeo, the wife of Cabinet Minister Yeo Cheow Tong.
On the other hand, The Straits Times has offices in the United States and it would be very easy for me to serve a summons upon your organization.
I do not believe that it is in the interest of The Straits Times to be sued over this matter in the United States. If, however, you proceed against me in Singapore, this is what will happen.
It is better, however, to settle matters amicably.
I will change the wording in my website to reflect the information you have now given me. If you have any further comments, please let me know.
Until further notice, I will keep this correspondence confidential.
Third email from The Straits Times to John Harding
From: "Janice Wu SS" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Fri, 23 May 2003 18:53:08 +0800
Subject: The Straits Times Threatens to Sue...
Dear Mr John Harding,
This is an appalling disregard for the facts. It gives the lie to your allegation that The Straits Times was "covering up" for Dr Goh. You also say you will "adjust (your) website accordingly". The change you made does not make clear that you were wrong in stating that Dr Goh was the doctor who examined the patient - your defamatory allegations were founded on this erroneous assumption on you part. The amendment to your website is therefore not an honest admission of your error, nor does it redress the damage you have caused us.
We also categorically reject your baseless suspicions and allegations. We most certainly reject your spurious allegation of defamation on our part. We reiterate our demand for remedial action and reserve our rights.
Senior Corporate Counsel
John Harding’s answer to The Straits Times third email
To: "Janice Wu SS" <email@example.com>
Sent: Fri, 23 May 2003 09:16:58 -0700
Subject: Re: The Straits Times Threatens to Sue...
Dear Ms. Wu:
In the spirit of cooperation, I stated in my last email to The Straits Times, "It is better, however, to settle matters amicably. I will change the wording in my website to reflect the information you have now given me. If you have any further comments, please let me know."
Consequently, I updated the website in accordance with the clarifications [in brackets] The Straits Times sent me in their last email, as follows:
BEGINNING OF QUOTE
[Note: In an email to us on May 22, 2003, The Straits Times provided the clarification that the SARS patient was not "attended to" by Dr. Goh. The extent of Dr. Goh's involvement in this case has still not been made known to us. (our updates are in green).]
The Straits Times (May 20, 2003) does not reveal that the doctor [whose clinic] is at fault is Goh Jin Hian (right), the son of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong.
Was Goh Jin Hian concealing the SARS case with the knowledge of the Singapore Government?
Any other doctor in Singapore would be quarantined and penalized...Instead, Goh, Jr. heads up a multimillion dollar medical empire.
END OF QUOTE
The Straits Times, in its emails to me, skips illogically from one subject to another. In your first email, you state that I have attacked The Straits Times, which is untrue, as I was simply pointing out what I considered to be an important omission in your newspaper article.
In your second email, you bring up the subject of Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong's son, Dr Goh Jin Hian, of whom you had made NO mention in your first email.
Now, in your third email, you state that I am disregarding the facts, when I write, "Since your article did not name the doctor who treated the patient, and did not specify the role of Dr Goh, we named him as he is ultimately responsible for the actions of his clinics." Should we take your statement to mean that Dr Goh is NOT responsible for the actions of his clinics? From that, you make the false and defamatory statement, "It gives the lie to your allegation that The Straits Times was "covering up" for Dr Goh." No such allegation was made.
By jumping from one subject to another it would appear that The Straits Times is attempting to entrap me. Furthermore, this tactic on your part renders a productive dialogue between us impossible. I am answering The Straits Times in good faith, while The Straits Times answers in an uncooperative, argumentative, and childish manner.