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September 27, 2017

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Singaporean blogger fights PM's defamation suit with crowdfunding

SINGAPORE--A Singaporean blogger sued for damages by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said Monday he had successfully raised fees for his legal defense in just four days through crowdfunding.

Roy Ngerng Yi Ling, a government health worker who posts comments on social issues, said 1,104 people had so far contributed more than SG$72,000 (US$55,700), exceeding his target of SG$70,000 when he launched the campaign Friday.

Ngerng published the transaction history of his bank account on his crowdfunding platform. Many of the donors registered comments criticizing Lee and opposing the use of libel suits to silence government critics.

Singapore officials have long used defamation suits against printed publications to defend their reputations.

Ngerng was the first online critic brought to court by a Singaporean leader.

"Donations were mostly of small denominations, and ranged from one cent to two thousand dollars," Ngerng, 33, told AFP.

"I think it reflects the people's frustrations with the current situation," added Ngerng, author of a blog called "The Heart Truths."

Lee filed the defamation suit on Thursday in the High Court, where the typical minimum value of claims for damages is SG$250,000.

The prime minister alleged that a May 15 post by Ngerng contained statements accusing him of "criminal misappropriation" of public funds.

Lee had earlier rejected an apology and dismissed as "derisory" a compensation offer of SG$5,000 from Ngerng. The court will have the final say on the amount to be awarded.

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