New York Times to pay damages to Singapore’s leaders

The New York Times Co. apologized on March 24, 2010, to Singapore’s prime minister and his two predecessors for a February 15 article that described the island nation’s leaders as a political dynasty, according to international news reports. The company and the article’s author, Philip Bowring, agreed to pay damages of 160,000 Singaporean dollars (US$114,000) in addition to legal costs, the reports said.

The amount, which was negotiated out of court, included 60,000 Singaporean dollars (US$42,600) to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and 50,000 Singaporean dollars (US$35,500) to his father Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founder and first prime minister, according to the Associated Press. 50,000 Singaporean dollars (approx US$35,500) will also be paid to Goh Chok Tong, no relation of the Lees, who served as prime minister between the father and son, according to AP. News reports did not say when the damages would be paid.

The apology on The New York Times’ Web site said the article did not intend to infer that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong “did not achieve his position through merit.” The article, which appeared in the International Herald Tribune, the global edition of The New York Times, has since been removed from the paper’s Web site. Davinder Singh, the lawyer representing the politicians, described the story—“All in the Family”—as “libelous” and a breach of an earlier “undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore,” the newspapers reported.

Bowring referred to dynastic Singaporean politics in a column he wrote for the Tribune in 1994, when Goh Chok Tong was prime minister and Lee was his deputy, The New York Times reported. The Tribune published an apology after the three leaders had threatened legal action, according to the Times. Bowring and the media company said in the apology they would not imply that the younger Lee owed his position to nepotism in future, according to the report. Some newspapers reported that they paid a financial settlement to the Lees during that dispute.

Singapore’s leaders have repeatedly charged journalists and political opponents with alleged defamation and have also won lawsuits and damages against Bloomberg, The Economist, and Dow Jones & Co