Singapore has one of the highest internet penetration rates in the world. While the rise of digital culture in the country has revolutionized many aspects of life, one of the biggest downsides has been defamation. The anonymity of internet users has led to the high risk of damaged reputations. Many individuals and brands have suffered devastating effects caused by malicious claims made through different online sources. 

If your reputation has suffered because of comments, claims, or any other form of published online materials, you have legal recourse under Singapore’s defamation laws. Read on and find out what the law says about defamation and the next course of action to take.

Legal Recourse for Online Defamation in Singapore

The law of Singapore protects the right to free speech. The country has some of the most progressive laws in the region, which is among the factors that contribute to heavy foreign investments. However, the right to free speech doesn’t extend to harming other citizens’ or companies’ reputations. 

Any action of speech that risks ruining your personal or your brand’s reputation falls under the defamation laws. Defamation is a criminal offense under section 499 of the Penal Code. According to the law, defamation can lead to criminal or civil actions. The law balances the right of people in the country to exercise freedom of speech while a person’s or company’s right to defend their good reputation.

In the criminal definition of defamation, the law dictates that the words spoken or written have the intention to harm and the publisher or creator knows the words will cause the other party harm or impugn the reputation of such a person. 

Simply put, defamation laws protect you or your business’ reputations from harm either by online written words (libel) or spoken speech (slander). The laws in the country say that defamation can lead to:

  • Criminal defamation lawsuit: If someone publishes materials online or slanders you intending to harm you, this is a crime punishable by a fine plus up to two years in jail.
  • Civil actions. A type of defamation where materials written or spoken online cause harm even if not intentionally. The guilty party can still pay you or your brand monetary damages and issue a public apology. 

What Are the Grounds for a Defamation Lawsuit? 

Some instances that make a case for online defamation include:

  1. Proof that the Statement is Defamatory. 

You have to prove to the court that whatever was written or said harmed your reputation. The most important aspect of the lawsuit is to show how the statement made lowered your standing in the eyes of the public and prove how this made some people shun or ridicule you. 

For a defamation offence to be prosecuted and for you or the business to get legal recourse, the burden of proof is on your side. If you’ve suffered some form of damage to your reputation or credibility, the court expects you or your legal team to prove it during the lawsuit. 

Another important aspect of defamation cases here is to prove that the defamer had the intention to harm your reputation when they published or uttered the defamatory words. The offender must have had the knowledge that whatever was said or written would cause you harm to your reputation.

  1. Clear Reference to the Victim 

For your case to succeed in your claim of defamation under the Singapore laws, your identity in the defamatory statement must be clear. Whether it’s a blog, video, animation, article, audio or any other form of online media, you must prove beyond any doubt that it was you being referred to in the statement. 

  1. Published Statement/Communicated to a Third Party

For your defamation case to succeed, you have to prove that indeed, the published online content was read or heard after publication. For online defamation in any form, the statement written or spoken must have been heard by another party. 

If the content published wasn’t in circulation, then it would mean you don’t have grounds to file a defamation case.  With online analytics now showing the number of people who have seen or viewed content, your legal team has an easier time proving that the defamatory statement reached people after publication. 

What Are Exceptions Under Singapore Defamation Laws? 

section 499 of the Penal Code under which defamation falls gives some exceptions, including:

  1. If the statement is true, it’s not defamation even if your reputation has been hurt.
  2. If the statement was made in good faith to express an opinion, or related to a matter of public interest. 
  3. Reports of court or parliamentary proceedings.
  4. Published report on the merits of a case resolved by court, or witness conduct.

Whether you file to protect your personal reputation or that of your brand, working with a legal representative who understands online defamation in Singapore helps. The legal opinion provided saves you a lot of time and money. You understand the standing of your case early enough through a professional review.

What Are the Damages for Defamation? 

Your legal resource for online defamation includes damages if your legal action is successful. The law not only protects your reputation against defamation, but also compensates you or resolves online defamation in specific ways. The damages or resolutions may include:

  1. Monetary damages: Monetary damages ease your distress and are part of justice you get after being aggrieved through libel or slander. The gravity of the statement, effect, and extent of publication determines how much the court awards.
  2. Injunctions: The court can grant an interlocutory injunction, forcing the publisher to retract the statement or a prohibitory injunction to halt further publication of the defamatory statement.

The court may award exemplary damages to punish whoever published the statement. Aggravated damages depend on whether there was an apology, whether the defamatory statement was repeated, or malicious reckless statement. 

Steps for Legal Recourse for Online Defamation in Singapore

The recent high-profile defamation case by the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong against a Facebook blogger highlights the availability of legal recourse if you’re defamed online. Whether you’re an aggrieved individual or a brand, you can report to the police for criminal prosecution or institute civil proceedings under the Defamation Act. In both cases, you need an experienced lawyer in the legal field of libel to succeed.


You’ve used a lot of time and resources to build your online reputation. A single reckless and false accusation or statement can ruin all the efforts you’ve made to build your personal or business brand. For this reason, make use of the law to protect your online reputation.