TOC Editor Slapped with A Fine Instead of Jail After Appeal

Remember The Online Citizen (TOC) saga?

If the question in your head is “Which one?”, let’s jog your memory a little. Does the phrase “corruption at the highest echelons” sound familiar?

Yup, we’re talking about that defamation saga. We thought it saw its end last year, but such things can be a fickle mistress.

The latest update is that TOC’s editor was slapped with a fine instead of jail after a successful appeal.

A Brief Summary of TOC’s Defamation Saga Up Till Last Year

There are two recent dramas surrounding TOC, both of which the chief editor Terry Xu is embroiled in—one concerning contempt of court and the other regarding defamation.

You can read more here if you’re curious why Xu was found guilty of contempt of court. TLDR; TOC’s chief editor was fined $18,000 for, well, contempt of court. It was held in that case that “the integrity, impartiality and propriety” of Singapore’s courts and judiciary were impugned by TOC’s article.

However, the latest update corresponds to the defamation saga. Forgot what it was about? Fret not; Goody Feed’s here to catch you up.

In September 2018, a TOC writer, Daniel De Costa, used a friend’s email to submit an article to be published on the TOC website. TOC’s Chief Editor, Xu, approved the publication, landing an article alleging “corruption at the highest echelons” in Singapore’s Cabinet on the TOC website.

When you’re saying such things about the government, obviously the government will be buey song.

Xu and De Costa were convicted in November 2021 and sentenced to jail in April 2022 for criminal defamation. Specifically, Xu was sentenced to three weeks’ jail, while De Costa was sentenced to three months and three weeks’ jail.

We all thought this would end TOC’s defamation saga, but apparently not.

TOC Editor Slapped With Fine Instead of Jail; TOC Writer Also Has Jail Term for Defamation Conviction Replaced by Fine

The most recent update to the defamation saga is this: Both Xu and De Costa managed to have their jail terms concerning their defamation convictions replaced with fines.

Instead of going to jail for three weeks for defamation, Xu, who did not appear in court since he is currently in Taiwan (more on that later), was slapped with a $8,000 fine.

Regardless, Xu had been to jail to jiak kali png for three weeks in April 2022 already.

Thus, it’s now Xu’s choice whether he wants these three weeks’ jail to be considered the two weeks’ jail he would have had to serve if he didn’t pay the $8,000 fine. If not, Xu can also pay the total $8,000 fine if he wants to.

The writer, De Costa, also managed to have his three-week jail term for defamation replaced with a $10,000 fine. However, De Costa must still serve a three-month jail term for using, without authorisation, his friend’s email to submit the defamatory article in question.

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According to Justice Aedit Abdullah, it’s one thing to say Cabinet members are corrupt and another to say they allowed corruption to spread. Xu and De Costa were guilty of only the latter. That’s why their jail terms were replaced with fines.

TOC Closes Singapore Company; Relocates to Taiwan

If you didn’t already know, TOC’s class license was cancelled in September 2021 by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) for failing to comply with license conditions. Specifically, TOC failed to declare all its funding sources.

In December 2021, while most of us were busy looking for Christmas gifts, Xu was busy trying to overturn IMDA’s order. However, he eventually failed.

The devil works hard, but Xu works harder. But what’s the next step from here?

When they teach you to think out of the box in school, sometimes this could mean thinking out of the country. And this is precisely what Xu did—he closed the Singapore-registered company and moved TOC’s operations to a new company registered in the land of beef noodles and chou tofu, Taiwan.

The land of good food and… good news, hopefully.

Regardless, this doesn’t mean Singapore has stopped breathing down TOC’s neck.

TOC Getting POFMA-ed… From 3,000 Kilometres Away

Merely one month after TOC’s revival in Taiwan, they got slapped with a Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) correction order.

You read that right. Even 3,000 kilometres away, TOC still can kena POFMA-ed.

You can read more about why this POFMA correction order was issued here. TLDR; while TOC claimed that the government profits from land sales, the government says it doesn’t.

And unlike that ex-boyfriend who always says they’ve moved on but haven’t, TOC has moved on. They did not appeal against the POFMA correction order because “no one has ever succeeded in making the Singapore Ministers to [sic] change their mind on something that they themselves had decided to do” since POFMA came into existence.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

The Waltz Between TOC and the Government

It’s no secret that TOC has been widely controversial due to their multiple brushes with the law. Aside from the contempt of court case, the recent defamation case and the POFMA correction order, another massive TOC saga was the defamation suit brought by PM Lee.

The waltz between TOC and the government truly never ends.

In August 2019, an article was published on the socio-political news site repeating allegations made by PM Lee’s sister, Dr Lee Wei Ling, and his brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, against PM Lee.

This involved allegations that PM Lee had misled his late father, Singapore’s founding father, regarding the status of their 38 Oxley Road family home.

Eventually, according to the judgment released in September 2021, PM Lee was awarded $210K worth of damages.

With all the court cases that Xu has been embroiled in, we’re glad there’s still enough in the coffers to relocate TOC to Taiwan.