In Singapore, a civil action for defamation can be brought under tort law. Under the tort of defamation, there are two types of defamation: 

  1. Libel (which occurs in writing or broadcasting); and 
  2. Slander (occurs in speech)

Defamation occurs when someone publishes a statement that diminishes the subject’s standing in the eyes of third parties. The goal of defamation law is, therefore, to protect the subject’s reputation and to repair any damage done to the subject.

In the heavily publicised court case between American actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, Ms. Heard had written an opinion piece in a newspaper about surviving domestic violence, which Mr. Depp challenged in court as a case of Ms. Heard trying to defame him.  

Criminal defamation 

In Singapore, a person may be liable for a defamatory act if three elements are present:

  1. The statement in question must be defamatory;
  2. The statement in question must refer to the victim;
  3. The statement in question must be published or communicated to a third party.

Defamation is a criminal offense under Section 499 of the Singapore Penal Code. If a person intends to defame another person, or knows that what he or she says will harm that person, then that person has committed a crime punishable by a fine and imprisonment for up to two years.

Civil defamation 

Even if the person had no intention of defaming, he or she may be held liable under Singapore’s civil defamation law, known as the Defamation Act. Intention is not a factor in civil defamation.

It makes no difference whether the effect of your written or spoken words is harmful to someone. If you are found liable for civil defamation, you may be required to pay monetary damages and publicly apologise to the victims. It should be noted that if the speech is harmful but true, it will not be considered defamatory. Defamation necessitates the person telling a lie about the other person.

Engaging a Lawyer

If you are currently in a situation that requires drafting legal documents like deeds and wills, mediation, or legal advice, it’s best to consult a lawyer who will be able to guide you through your options.

Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu of Amarjit Sidhu Law Corporation has represented numerous clients in a wide variety of matters over the years, from traffic offences, and high-profile criminal cases to family and divorce matters. With a vast knowledge of Singapore’s laws and a wealth of experience, Mr. Amarjit Singh Sidhu will be able to provide valuable and timely advice for your situation. For more information, feel free to contact us for a consultation.